Palestine activists sue Co-op accounts closure

24th Dec 2015
Palestine activists sue Co-op accounts closure

A Co-operative Bank branch in London (Photo: Creative Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A Palestinian advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the Co-operative Bank after the bank closed its accounts without warning in October.

The Co-op’s, which markets itself as an ethical financial institution, has cited its “risk appetite” as the reason for the account closure of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

The Co-op said it was committed to supporting charities, but needed to perform “due diligence” checks on customers, their accounts and payments. It must “ensure the bank complies with anti-money laundering obligations and to manage the bank’s risk”.

Customers who send money to “very high-risk locations throughout the world” required advanced checks, the bank said, “to ensure that funds do not inadvertently fund illegal or other proscribed activities”.

The bank said it would continue to assist with a range of donations to Gaza through groups including Médecins Sans Frontières‎, Amnesty, and Oxfam.

However lawyers for PSC say the bank “failed to provide any reasons for the closure” and “failed to provide appropriate disclosure”.

This, they said, led to the conclusion that the Co-op’s decision was based on the PSC’s “belief in Palestinian rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return, and to oppose Israel’s occupation and violations of international law”. They have filed the discrimination lawsuit under the Equality Act 2010.

A statement issued by law firm ITN said the Co-op’s must be held to account for its actions.

“It appears that the decision was taken because of [the] PSC’s support for Palestine. A decision based on active support of Palestinian causes – or on the nationality or religion of the Palestinian people – would be discriminatory. It is in the wider public interest to ensure that banks are held to account for their decision making processes; a bank cannot be above the law by virtue of its status.”

About 20 organisations working for Palestine, including numerous regional branches, have had their accounts closed or denied.

PSC Director Sarah Colborne told The Muslim News the bank has “turned its back on its principles.”

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