census rehearsal tainted by torture allegations

50,000 households in the west of Edinburgh, Lewis and Harris should have received forms for the official census rehearsal in the last couple of weeks. They were asked to complete the forms or fill in an online questionaire on or as soon as possible after Sunday 29 March. Around 15,000 of these households also received a leaflet from SACC outlining the involvement in the census of CACI Ltd, a wholly-owned UK subsidiary of a firm involved in human rights abuses in Iraq. The SACC leaflet asked people to refuse to participate in the rehearsal.

CACI Ltd was responsible for printing the census forms and for developing the internet service that allowed people - for the first time in the UK - to provide census information online. Most people would have been unaware of CACI's involvement in the census if they hadn't received the SACC leaflet, thanks to a near-total media blackout of the issue.

Staff employed by CACI International or its subsidiaries interrogated people held without charge or trial at Abu Ghraib.

Four former Abu Ghraib detainees were on 19 March given the go-ahead by a US court to sue CACI. The firm had tried to block the lawsuits by claiming "official immunity."

The complaint filed by the former detainees alleges that they were tortured by "CACI and its co-conspirators."

It is alleged that:

  • Former detainee Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari was subjected to electric shocks, deprived of food, threatened by dogs, and kept naked while forced to engage in physical activities to the point of exhaustion.
  • Former detainee Taha Yaseen Arraq Rashid was tortured by placing him in stress positions for extended periods of time, humiliating him, depriving him of oxygen, food, and water, shooting him in the head with a taser gun, and by beating him so severely that he suffered from broken limbs and vision loss. He was forcibly subjected to sexual acts by a female as he was cuffed and shackled to cell bars and was also forced to witness the rape of a female prisoner."
  • Former detainee Sa'ad Hamza Hantoosh was tortured by subjecting him to extremely hot and cold water, beating his genitals with a stick, and detaining him in a solitary cell in conditions of sensory deprivation for almost a full year.
  • Former detainee Salah Hasan Nusaif Jasim Al-Ejaili was stripped, kept naked, threatened with dogs, deprived of food, beaten, and kept in a solitary cell in conditions of sensory deprivation.

It is also alleged that CACI has been "part of a conspiratorial campaign to prevent the truth about the torture ever being known to the public."

It's time that the General Register Office of Scotland (GROS) stopped giving cover to CACI's campaign to suppress the facts.

The allegations made by the former detainees are unproven. But there is no dispute that prisoners questioned by CACI staff were deprived of human rights guaranteed in international norms. And there is no dispute that he "rules of engagement" at Abu Ghraib permitted sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs.

The Scottish census is scheduled to take place in March 2011.

What we are asking for

The Scottish Government must cancel the census contract with CACI. It should seek compensation from CACI for any costs incurred by cancelling the contract. It appears from material provided by the General Register Office of Scotland (GROS) in response to Freedom of Information requests that CACI failed to inform GROS adequately about its role at Abu Ghraib and about the lawsuits brought against it in the US.

What if CACI continues to be involved in the census?

If the contact with CACI isn't cancelled, we will:

  • Do our utmost to ensure that everyone in Scotland understands CACI's role in the census and its role in human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib.
  • Campaign for researchers to treat data from the 2011 Scottish census as untouchable.

How You can help

  1. Two Edinburgh football clubs (Hearts and Hibs) have been duped into supporting the census rehearsal (Source:  www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/en/news/articles/HeartsandHibsuniteinsupportforScotlandsCensus.html, no longer online in 2016).
    Please get in touch with Hearts and Hibs and explain what's going on.
  2. Spread the word. Tell all you friends about the census and Abu Ghraib:
  3. If you live in Scotland, get in touch with your MSPs and demand the cancellation of the contract. You can contact all your list MSPs as well as your constituency MSP. Contact them at www.writetothem.com