The world’s largest security firm, G4S, could see its contract with the EU expire due to its role in Israeli human rights abuses following pressure from several MEPs.
The news comes hot on the heels of the announcement by the UNHCR in Jordan that it no longer has contracts with the Anglo-Danish company because of links to what the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) describes as “Prisons which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel”.
The European Parliament ended its contract with G4S in 2011 following a similar campaign by parliament president at the time.
Last month the UK’s Labour Party’s NEC voted to stop using G4S for conference security over.
G4S was awarded a contract in 2011 to guard and provide surveillance for EU buildings in Brussels. But some 38 Euro-Deputies from all the major political groups oppose renewing the contract. On December 2, they sent a letter to European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, with the EU’s Foreign Policy chief, Frederica Mogherini in copy.
“By helping Israel to run five prisons and ‘interrogation centres’, G4S participates in Israel’s use of torture and mass incarceration of more than 6,000 Palestinians,” notes the letter.
It says the European Commission and its foreign policy branch, the European External Action Service, should end its contracts “with a firm that is engaged in providing support for activities that constitute war crimes.” Belgian Green MEP said G4S also helps protect illegal Israeli settlers on Palestinian territory. “G4S provides services whereby it helps the Israeli Government to do illegal things and things that violate international law.”
G4S signed a contract in 2007 with the Israel Prison Authority to help imprison what the Israeli-based research centre Who Profits from the Occupation says are mainly Palestinian political prisoners whose basic rights are routinely violated.
According to the PSC these facilities include the Ofer, Ketziot, Megiddo and Damon, Kishon and Jerusalem prisons. PSC says G4S is also providing equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, notably at the Qalandia, Bethlehem and Irtah checkpoints in the Israeli wall.
The issue is sensitive given a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice against the Wall and Israel’s settlement policy.
G4S, Global Director of Media Nigel Fairbrass said the firm provides servicing and maintenance of equipment at prisons andcheckpoints, including checkpoints along the wall. But insisted, “We don’t operate the equipment, all we do is supply it and maintain it,” he said.
UNHCR confirmed they do not have any contracts with the firm.
The announcement was made following a wave of online protests at UN offices across 5 major cities calling on the UN to end all of its $22m contracts with G4S.
Investigations in 2014 found G4S guards to be working at UNHCR buildings in Amman and at Syrian refugee camps in Zaatari and Azraq, leading to the start of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigning on the issue.
UNHCR in Jordan had contracts with G4S worth $1.7m in 2014. The UNHCR started moving security contracts to a local company earlier this year.
Other UN bodies including UNICEF, the UNDP and UNOPS still have contracts with the company. More than 200 organisations have called on the UN to bar the organisation from having contracts doing so violates the UN’s procurement code of conduct. Yazeed Halaseh, of Jordan BDS, welcomed UNHCR decision to sever ties with G4S who he says “is at the heart of Israel’s use of mass incarceration to repress Palestinian opposition to its military occupation and settler colonialism,” he also urged the UN to follow suit.
A spokesman for Palestinian Prisoner rights group Addameer, said; “Since the beginning of October, Israeli occupation forces arrested over 2,050 Palestinians including at least 350 children and over 210 Palestinians including 4 minors who were placed under administrative detention without charge or trial. Many of those who were arrested remain detained by Israel.”
“These political prisoners are held in prisons and interrogation centres that G4S helps Israel to run, making G4S complicit in Israel’s torture, ill-treatment and administrative detention without charge or trial of Palestinians.”Universities in Oslo and Bergen refused to give G4S contracts following student campaigns.
In the UK, at least 5 student unions voted to cancel contracts with G4S, and students successfully pressured 2 other universities not to renew contracts with the company. Major charities in South Africa, the Netherlands and elsewhere terminated contracts with G4S.