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Global Campaign calls on UN to Cancel Contract with G4S Security Firm over Human Rights Abuse

By Amy Mac - October 04, 2015
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [G4S] [Occupation] [checkpoints]

Over 220 trade unions and campaign groups from around the world called on the UN to cancel its contract with security firm Group4Security (G4S) Sept. 10 over its role in human rights abuse in Palestine.

The British-Danish multinational corporation provides security services and equipment to the Israeli police forces and prison services, as well as t0 military checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank.

In a letter to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, campaigners urged the UN to cancel a number of their major contracts with G4S, a company they claim violates the UN’s own guidelines on human rights.

Hunger Strike Campaign

The call for the UN to cut its ties with G4S coincides with Israel’s intensified and systematic abuse of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons, many of which G4S help run by providing equipment and security services.

One of these is Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, as well as the Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention centers.

Over the years, Palestinian political prisoners have held a series of hunger strikes in protest of Israel’s use of administrative detention and its alleged torture and mistreatment of prisoners in facilities like these.

International criticism

G4S has been subject to a boycott campaign since 2011 over its activity in Israel and Palestine, resulting in the loss a number of high profile contracts with universities, trade unions and banks. In June 2014, the Gates Foundation divested the whole of its $170m holding in the company.

In an attempt to salvage their reputation G4S has, on several occasions, claimed they would pull out of the Israeli settlements and checkpoints in the West Bank.

As early as 2002, Lars Nørby Johansen, the then Chief Executive Officer of G4S, stated that the company would withdraw from the West Bank.

“In some situations there are other criteria that we must consider,” Johansen said. “And to avoid any doubt that Group 4 Falck [G4S] respects international conventions and human rights, we have decided to leave the West Bank.”

Johansen’s assertion came after it was revealed that G4S’ subsidiary Hashmira ( also known as G4S Israel) had at least 100 guards in the Israeli settlement of Kedumim, evoking further criticism over the company’s apparent disregard for human rights.


G4S subsidiaries in the West Bank  

Despite G4S’s multiple announcements asserting their commitment to human rights alongside  plans to terminate contracts with private enterprises in Israel Palestine, a 2012 report by the UN general assembly determined that there has been no such effort on G4S’s behalf.

Following Nørby Johansen’s 2002 pledge to exit the West Bank, the UN report revealed: “[G4S] security activities have still continued through Hashmira’s creation of another company, Shalhevet."

At the time Shalhevet was owned by  Yig’al Sher, a minority share of Hashmira and the grandson of Hashmira’s founder.

Mohammed Othman, a human rights activist involved in the boycott campaign against G4S, claims their continuation of security activities under an alternative name is an attempt to shift international focus away from the G4S presence in the West Bank and stifle media interest.

“They are always changing the name and coming up with a new company. Now they are not working under G4S, they do not work under that name. But there is an Israeli company [Shalhevet] that is coordinating at the workers entrance and checkpoint in Qalqilya.”

Nevertheless, G4S have continued to reiterate promises to withdraw its operations from the West Bank.  In 2013 Adam Mynott, G4S communications manager in London, told a Swedish radio station that G4S planned to leave the West Bank by 2015 as their clients did not meet to G4S’s ethical guidelines.

But Othman’s personal experiences negates Mynott’s proclamation that G4S will have withdrawn from the West Bank by this year. Living in the town of Jaysus in the Qalqilya district, he experiences Shalhevet-run checkpoints and terminals on a frequent basis.

“The soldiers there have M16s, they carry heavy guns. They humiliate and harass the people everyday,” said Othman.

G4s Boycott

With G4S operating in more than 120 countries with over 620,000 employees, the BDS campaign against the corporation is of David and Goliath proportions.

But Othman reiterated the importance of the fight against G4S; its expansive global presence suggesting that G4S’s forced withdrawal from Israel and the West Bank would send out a clear message to the world.

“G4S is the biggest [security company] in Israel. The only one we know and work against is G4S, because it’s spread all over the world. If you go anywhere in the world, you see G4S,” said Othman.


“If G4S leaves, it’s a big victory because people will accept that Israel is an occupying state and they are working with a country that occupies other people’s land,” he said.

According to Jamal Juma, coordinator of the Boycott National Committee (BNC),  it is imperative that the boycott continues until G4S has entirely withdrawn their security activities in Israel and Palestine, including through their subsidiaries.

“For us it’s very important. It comes under the corporate responsibilities. We are asking international companies and states to be responsible of their investments. If it is against the prisoners or if they are working in the occupied territories, we will continue our campaign,” he said.

Last year, G4S again confirmed that it will end all its Israeli prison contracts, this time by 2017.

But Juma says, despite G4S’ multiple claims they will end their contracts, the campaign against the corporation will not end until they see clear indicators that their actions match their words.

“We are not taking their declaration seriously… They declared they will finish their contract with the Israeli authorities and work in Israel by 2017, because that’s when their contract is finishing. But it must end immediately; this is not enough reason to stop campaign against G4s.”

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