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CACI faces curbs in Scotland and legal action in US over Abu Ghraib torture

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)

A US Federal Appeals Court was yesterday asked to consider whether torture victims abused in Abu Ghraib prison can bring legal proceedings against defence contractor CACI International Inc. CACI is trying to claim "official immunity" on the grounds that CACI staff working as interrogators at Abu Ghraib were part of the military chain of command.

The news follows the announcement by the Scottish Government last month that it has re-structured the contract for the next Scottish Census to prevent CACI - whose UK subsidiary is contracted to run the census - from obtaining access to personal data about Sottish households. But campaigners say they are still opposed to any involvement by CACI in the Scottish Census. The controversy seems set to to engulf the census rehearsal scheduled for the end of next month.

The announcement by the Scottish Government is deeply embarrassing for troubled defence and IT contractor CACI. When CACI Ltd - CACI's wholly-owned UK subsidiary - was awarded the £18.5 million contract last June, Greg Bradford, Chief Executive Officer of CACI Ltd, said:

"We are honoured that GROS [General Register Office for Scotland] has placed its trust in us."

But John Swinney, Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth said in a January letter to Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm:

"My colleagues and I absolutely understand the views of the people who have written to us about the contract and we have thought very carefully about what we might do as a result. Since my last letter, therefore, we have set up a new contract structure for the census in 2011, designed to minimise the role of CACI (UK) and in particular to distance it from the personal data collected by the census."

The Scottish Government has so far resisted calls for the contract with CACI to be cancelled, saying that to do so would breach EU procurement rules.

John Swinney says that CACI

"strongly denies the allegations of abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and makes clear its abhorrence of human rights violations."

SACC disagrees. Richard Haley, Secretary of SACC says:

"CACI denies any responsibility for the abuse that was recorded in the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs and denies some other allegations - even though it is fighting to avoid having that denial tested in court. But its actions and statements suggest that it strongly supports the US policy of detention without charge or trial at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. In common with other human rights organisations, SACC believes that this policy deprived prisoners of human rights guaranteed in international human rights norms."

"CACI sent its staff to work under miltary 'rules of engagement' that permitted the abuse of prisoners by sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs. That isn't 'abhorrence of human rights violations'. That's support for human rights violations. And it's intolerable that Scottish taxpayers should be handing money over to a company involved in these things."

SACC is calling on people to refuse to cooperate with the census rehearsal scheduled by the General Register Office of Scotland for 29 March 2009. The rehearsal will be held in the west of Edinburgh and in Lewis and Harris. Participation in the rehearsal is voluntary, although participation in the full census in 2011 is expected to be compulsory.

Susan L. Burke, a US attorney representing some of the Iraqi victims of abuse, said yesterday:

"As we argued today, CACI and L-3 should not be allowed to evade accountability for their employees' complicity in the torture and human rights abuses that sent their military co-conspirators to prison."

SACC believes that the campaign to hold CACI to account for its actions in Iraq needs to be seen as part of a wider campaign to insist that there can be no immunity for human rights abusers.

We think that the senior army officers and US administration officials whose orders set the scene for the abuses at Abu Ghraib should have stood trial alongside the low-ranking soldiers who were convicted of abuse. We think that CACI board members and managers who sent staff to work under an abusive detention regime should answer for their actions.

We don't accept that CACI can use EU procurement rules to force Scotland to ignore CACI's involvement in human rights abuses. The Scottish Government has to decide whether it intends to help the cover-up, or help people in Scotland to insist on justice.

More Information

  1. Appeals Court to Rule on CACI and L-3 Complicity in Abu Ghraib Torture - Press statement (10 February 2009) from the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights
  2. Online petition calling for the census contract with CACI to be cancelled
  3. CACI appoints specialists to help process 2011 Scottish census - over 200 jobs to be created in Scotland - Press statement from CACI Ltd, 27 January 2009
  4. GROS is hand in glove with Abu Ghraib firm - SACC Press Release 21 November 2008
    GROS says that it was informed in advance of plans by CACI to threaten legal action against The Sunday Herald, Stop The War Coalition, and SACC. GROS says it received copies of the letters that would be issued by CACI's lawyers. It also says that it sent 'drafts' of its own responses to Freedom of Information to CACI "to ensure the accuracy of the information regarding CACI (UK).