Census form

Scotland's Census Day was Sunday 27 March 2011

A US-based defence contractor involved in human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison helped to run the census.

The contractor - CACI International - claims immunity from lawsuits relating to its involvement in torture and abuse. But people in Scotland who refused, as a matter of conscience, to participate fully in the census were pursued as criminals through the Scottish courts.

Scotland's census - complicit in human rights abuses

The 2011 Scottish census was run by CACI Ltd. CACI Ltd was given an £18.5 million contract for key information technology work and other services for the 2011 Scottish Census. CACI Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of CACI International. That means that all the money it makes belongs to CACI International. But CACI International remains beyond the reach of Scottish and British law.

CACI International is a US-based defence contractor. From August 2003 until the early autumn of 2005 it was contracted to provide "interrogation services" for the US Army at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. While CACI staff were employed as interrogators at Abu Ghraib, prisoners were humiliated and tortured there by US military police. Photographs of the abuse shocked the world and led to the conviction of a number of low-ranking US soldiers by courts martial.

CACI denies any wrongdoing. But CACI has blocked lawsuits brought against it by former Abu Ghraib prisoners by claiming "official immunity."

Former Abu Ghraib detainees say they were tortured in various ways by CACI and its co-conspirators, including torture with electric shocks, beating, forced nakedness, forced participation in physical activities to the point of exhaustion, sensory deprivation, deprivation of food, deprivation of oxygen and torture with extremely hot and cold water.

CACI staff interrogated people held without charge or trial at Abu Ghraib. Prisoners they questioned were deprived of human rights guaranteed in international norms. The "rules of engagement" at Abu Ghraib permitted sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs.

The Scottish Government says it "understands the views" of people who have written to it about the contract. It says it has set up a new "contract structure" to "distance" CACI from personal data collected by the census. But it has not explained in detail how data protection under the new contract structure will be enforced. The Scottish and British Governments accept that data held by any US-based company can be accessed by the US Government under powers provided by the Patriot Act.

EU Procurement rules set out in Directive 2004/18/EC give contacting authorities discretion to exclude a contractor that "has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate." The Scottish Government has chosen not to use this discretionary power.

It's completely unacceptable that Scottish taxpayers are being asked to support a company that has been involved in shameful human rights abuses and is trying to use its status as a military contractor to duck accountability in US courts.

The use of contractors is just one of the methods used to protect abusers from accountability. In Britain, secrecy, deception and stonewalling have all been employed to protect British soldiers and officials from serious investigation. The British Government is trying to limit investigations into military involvement in abuse in Iraq to the insultingly-named "Iraq Historic Allegations Team."

Census data isn't essential for planning public services. It's just one of a range of statistical tools. Census data has often in the past been used to justify fewer services. The way to defend public services is to fight for them. We should begin our defence of public services by defending the census from the arms and intelligence industry.