Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)
Tuesday 5 April 2011

Census Scandal – John Swinney acting as “spokesperson for CACI”

“CACI is  involved in our census because of a failure of political will on the part of the Scottish Government. The result is that a Scottish Government minister is now talking like a spokesperson for CACI.”

Holyrood finance minister John Swinney, in a letter sent last week to Malcolm Chisholm (then MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith), has ducked the issue of whether defence contractor CACI could have been excluded from Scotland’s census because of its record of involvement in human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

John Swinney points out in his letter that any such exclusion would need to be backed by proof of CACI’s misconduct. He does not try to argue that a court conviction against CACI would be necessary, though previous statements by the General Register Office of Scotland (GROS) and the Scottish Government have implied that it would. In fact, it is clear from the legislation that a conviction is not necessarily required, and that the contracting authority (in this case, GROS) can rely on any means that it can demonstrate.

SACC believes that GROS could have relied for this purpose on CACI’s established involvement in Abu Ghraib, on the established fact that prisoners were detained at Abu Ghraib for lengthy periods without meaningful legal process, and on the established fact that US rules of engagement permitted interrogation methods and forms of treatment that violate international human rights norms. Additionally, SACC believes that GROS could have examined the merits of the specific allegations that form the basis of lawsuits brought against CACI in the US by former Abu Ghraib prisoners and could, if the evidence was found to be sufficient, have relied on this to demonstrate CACI’s further misconduct.

CACI has not so far disputed the substance of the allegations against it in US courts, but is instead asking the courts to rule that, as a US Government contractor, it is immune from legal action.

In his letter to Malcolm Chisholm, John Swinney wrote:

In his letter to you, he [Richard Haley, Chair of SACC and constituent of Malcolm Chisholm] suggests that the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006 could have enabled the Registrar General to disallow CACI (UK) Ltd’s tender on the grounds that the company “has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate”. The key word there is “proven”, and the key point is that the allegations made against the company have not been proven. Your letter correctly says that the company’s US parent was involved in Abu Ghraib: it was providing interrogation services under contract to the US Government. Interrogation is not itself contrary to international law. The key question is whether CACI International or its staff were involved in the unacceptable human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib. Although the US Government court-martialled its own military personnel who were involved, it took no action against CACI International employees or against the company itself – for instance by removing it from government tender lists. Court cases against the company have not made progress. Its involvement in these abuses is therefore unsubstantiated.”

Commenting on John Swinney’s letter, Richard Haley (Chair of SACC) said:

It’s scandalous that John Swinney is repeating CACI’s disingenuous argument that the lack of any criminal prosecution in the US, coupled with the willingness of the US to court-martial a number of low-ranking soldiers, points to a lack of evidence against CACI. What is he thinking of? Does he really believe that the US Army’s willingness to court-martial “its own” low-ranking soldiers means that federal prosecutors would be keen to prosecute an influential defence contractor and its staff? Does he think it irrelevant that CACI would almost certainly seek to draw former senior officials of the Bush White House into any case against it? Doesn’t he know that there is a yawning gulf between the interpretation of human rights law in the US and in the rest of the world? Does he think that US law should govern our choice of contractors in Scotland?

“CACI is  involved in our census because of a failure of political will on the part of the Scottish Government. The result is that a Scottish Government minister is now talking like a spokesperson for CACI.”

SACC is encouraging people to refuse to cooperate with the census in protest at CACI’s involvement in it.

Many forms of non-cooperation with the census are perfectly legal. Failure to fill in and return a census form is illegal, but it is difficult to prove and prosecutions are likely to be very rare. SACC believes that refusal to fill in a census from in the present circumstances is ethically and politically justifiable. We will do our best to support anyone prosecuted for not filling in their census form.

ENDS

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