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Census company claims immunity over Abu Ghraib allegations

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)

A US Federal Court in Virginia will on Thursday be asked to throw out a lawsuit brought against defence contractor CACI by former Abu Ghraib prisoners, according to the website of the USA Today newspaper. The former prisoners say that CACI was involved in their torture at Abu Ghraib. But lawyers acting for CACI have filed a petition with the court claiming immunity on the grounds that the company was working for the US Army.

A UK subsidiary of CACI attracted controversy earlier this year when it was awarded a contract for the next Scottish census. Whatever decision the court reaches, the case is likely to prove embarrassing to the Scottish Government. A letter from the Register Office of Scotland, dated 20 October and signed by Census Director Peter Scrimgeour, says: "the law suits against the company, raised by Iraqi civilians 4 years ago and renewed recently, have not proceeded." This is simply untrue.

It is deeply disturbing that CACI, while insisting that it denies the allegations against it, is continuing with its long-standing policy of trying to hide in court behind claims of official immunity.

SACC believes that, whatever the truth of the particular allegations now going through the US courts, CACI's involvement in Abu Ghraib makes it unfit for to play any part in running the Scottish census. Prisoners were held at Abu Ghraib without proper legal safeguards. US troops at Abu Ghraib operated under rules of engagement that were incompatible with the Geneva Conventions. Public and private statements by senior US Administration figures and some senior army officers set a tone of brutality that encouraged US soldiers to abuse prisoners in ways that went far beyond even the abuse licensed by the rules of engagement. CACI allowed its staff to work as interrogators under these conditions. That's a stunning corporate disregard for human rights and it should rate as serious corporate misconduct in anybody's book.

The SNP has so far done nothing to distance itself from the decision of the Register Office to award the census contract to CACI. Their inaction is deeply shocking to everyone who voted SNP because of the party's public opposition to the war in Iraq. An online petition calling for the cancellation of the contract has received over 700 signatures and is backed by journalist John Pilger, comedian and writer Mark Thomas, former MP Tony Benn, writer Iain Banks and former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg.

Notes for Editors