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Crown Office in jurisdiction flip-flop over torture claim firm

Source: The Firm Magazine, 22 June 2009.

The Crown Office have backtracked on their earlier claim to have no jurisdiction to presecute CACI, the firm accused of committing war crimes at Abu Ghraib.

The Crown Office initially claimed to have no jurisdiction as the allegations "refer to foreign nationals on foreign soil."

In a statement issued today the Crown Office said that in fact they would have jurisdiction if the individuals involved became UK nationals or resident in Scotland, in an apparent contradiction of their earlier claims that jurisdiction couldn't be found as the acts were committed abroad.

They have also refused to explain why they consider they have no jurisidction to prosecute, yet had jurisdiction in the 1991 Gecas case, involving similar allegations. Anton Gecas was accused of the murder of jewish civilians in Lithuania during World War Two. Charges were brought against him in 1991, but fell only through lack of evidence.

CACI were awarded the Scottish census contract last year, and have been accused of torture and war crimes at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, drawing condemnation from human rights groups, as well as lawyers John Scott and Aamer Anwar.

Sidestepping the inconsistency of the Gecas precedent, the Crown Office also claimed the CACI case is not governed by the common law, but by the International Criminal Court (Scotland) Act 2001.

"The allegations against CACI clearly do not relate to individual foreign nationals who are now resident in Scotland and as such the International Criminal Court (Scotland) Act 2001 does not apply," the statement said.

"Should we be made aware of any individual who is alleged to have committed war crimes and who is, or subsequently becomes, a UK national or resident in Scotland then they will be investigated appropriately in terms of the International Criminal Court (Scotland) Act 2001."

In the Gecas case, the alleged crimes were committed by a foreign national on foreign soil, and Gecas was a resident in Scotland.

In the CACI case, the alleged crimes were committed by foreign nationals on foreign soil, and CACI have been awarded a contract in Scotland.