SACC urges 11th-hour census U-turn over abuse concerns

SACC Press Release
Thursday 3 March 2011

Human rights group Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) says that the Scottish Government should make an 11th-hour U-turn over the involvement in the Scottish census of defence contractor CACI - a firm that provided interrogators who worked at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq at the height of the prisoner abuse scandal and has yet to be held to account for its actions.

The census is due to be held on Sunday 27 March. But SACC says that it isn't too late for the Scottish Government to cancel the contract with CACI and postpone the census until it can be carried out without CACI's involvement. SACC says the the extra costs could be met by seeking compensation from CACI. SACC believes that CACI may have given the Scottish Government a misleading picture of the progress of lawsuits brought against the company by former Iraqi detainees. Re-scheduling the census would create jobs in Scotland and would allow the country's statistical data to be built on sound ethical foundations.

CACI Ltd was in 2008 awarded a £18.5 million contract for key information technology work and other services for the Scottish Census. CACI Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of US-based defence contractor CACI International.

Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:

"Of course postponing the census would be disruptive. But anything would be better than continuing with the unethical and misguided arrangements that the Scottish Government seems to believe it is stuck with. It's a matter of record that staff employed by CACI International interrogated people detained without charge at Abu Ghraib. They did so under US rules of engagement that permitted sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs. SACC and other human rights groups believe detention and interrogation in these circumstances violates international human rights norms.

"A large number of former Abu Ghraib detainees have brought civil cases against CACI International in which they allege CACI's responsibility for even more serious abuses, including torture with electric shocks, beating, forced nakedness, forced participation in physical activities to the point of exhaustion, sensory deprivation, deprivation of food, deprivation of oxygen and torture with extremely hot and cold water. CACI has publicly denied any wrongdoing but it has not so far responded in court to the substantive allegations. Instead, it is trying to claim that it is immune from legal action because it was working for the US Government. CACI is trying to avoid being held to account for its actions at the same time as it is trying to use the Scottish census to launder its reputation.

If the Scottish Government won't cancel the contract, I hope that people in Scotland will use census day to say no to this dirty business."

Householders are legally obliged to complete and return their census forms and could face fines of up to £1000 if they don't do so. But the risk of prosecution is slight. According to official estimates, over 200,000 people were missed from the 2001 Scottish census. But just 3 people were "successfully" prosecuted. People upset at CACI's involvement in the census could also choose to supply inaccurate information on their census forms. Prosecution over this would be extremely difficult.

SACC will campaign for researchers to boycott data obtained from the 2011 census unless the contract with CACI is cancelled. We hope that the census will stand, for as long as the records exist, as a monument to the victims of Abu Ghraib and the victims of corporate human rights abuse everywhere.

Notes for Editors

  1. The US Supreme Coury is currently considering whether to allow one of the lawsuits against CACI to go ahead. The case, known as Saleh et al v. Titan et al., has been brought by over 250 Iraqi torture victims against CACI International Incorporated and Titan Corporation (now L-3 Services).
  2. Another case involving CACI is currently before the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia. The case, known as Al Shimari v. CACI et al. has been brought by four Iraqi torture victims against CACI International Inc., and CACI Premier Technology, Inc.
  3. SACC launched a petition in 2008 calling on the Scottish Government to cancel the contract with CACI. CACI International threatened two SACC members with legal action over the petition. After taking legal advice, SACC declined to remove or change the petition. No legal action has followed. The petition is no longer open for signatures but the text of the petition is still available online
  4. In a letter dated 7 October 2008 to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, SACC said:"We think that CACI's involvement in the running of Abu Ghraib prison, and its close links to US defence and intelligence interests, make CACI International and all its subsidiaries unfit for any role in the Scottish census."
  5. More information about the Scottish census