UPDATE: I have now sent a letter, based on the draft below, to my MP. Watch this space for further news.
I do not want to be complicit in torture, and so am considering not returning my census form directly to the General Register Office for Scotland. Please see the draft letter to my MP below. Is this a good idea? Comments welcome.
Dear [Name of MP]
Individual responsibility not to support torture and the Scottish Census 2011
I am writing to you, my MP, because the Scottish Parliament has been suspended in advance of elections in May, and therefore I currently do not have an MSP who can legally represent me.
As you will know, CACI Ltd has been 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. The latter is a US-based defence contractor which was contracted to provide “interrogation services” at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. While CACI staff were employed as interrogators at Abu Ghraib, prisoners were tortured there by US military police. 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. Although CACI denies wrongdoing it is trying to block lawsuits brought against it by former Abu Ghraib prisoners by claiming “official immunity”. This and further information may be found on the SACC website.
While 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” I am prepared to accept that the Scottish Government believed that according to the strict letter of the law it had no choice in the matter but to approve CACI’s tender. (This is ironic and must be extremely painful for a government that has prided itself on its Cashback for Communities scheme, which uses the proceeds of crime to fund activities for young people!) Indeed, I think the fault lies with EU procurement law, and therefore I am writing to one of my MEPs on this broader issue (a copy of this letter is attached for your interest). Be this as it may, there is now the question of what a person of conscience should do when the law appears to be not merely an ass, but to wish to channel funds to an organisation which there are reasonable grounds for believing has been complicit in torture and in other breaches of human rights. I maintain that human rights considerations must take priority. Indeed, my conscience tells me that if I were to allow CACI to process the information on my form I would effectively be condoning torture.
I have thought long and hard about the issues here and have decided that it would not be right for me to refuse to give the General Register Office of Scotland my census data, per se. On the other hand, if I were to allow GROS to use CACI to process the information I would indirectly be benefiting an organisation which I consider, beyond reasonable doubt, to have participated in flagrant breaches of human rights. I am therefore asking you to hold my completed census form, which this letter accompanies, and to write to GROS on my behalf informing it that you have my form, but that I have instructed you not to pass it on until you receive reassurance that the information I provide will not be handled in any way by any employee or subcontractor of CACI. I would consider myself complicit in torture were I to allow CACI to handle the data I provide. I could not live with myself knowing I had anything to do with encouraging organisations to think that they could indulge in human rights abuses without it affecting their ability to profit from public contracts.
I thank you in advance for your help with this, and look forward to you relaying any correspondence with GROS.
R. Eric Swanepoel