G4S’ work in Palestine has attracted fierce criticism and has provoked campaigns against it in Palestine, Israel and Europe. In 2002, Group 4 Falck bought Hashmira, one of Israel’s largest private security companies. Hashmira, now known as G4S Israel, has provided security services in Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as security technology to the apartheid wall and military checkpoints. Hashmira is also the Israeli representative of Rapiscan, a US subsidiary of OSI Systems, which supplies security scanners to several Israeli checkpoints.
In 2010, G4S expanded its operations in Palestine with the takeover of Aminut Moked Artzi, one of the oldest private security companies in Israel, which provided its services to businesses in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Prisons in Israel
Prisons in Israel house detainees who have been arrested in the Occupied Territories and transferred into the 1948 borders of Israel. This transfer is in violation of articles 76, 66 and 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In addition, Israeli prisons house Palestinian child detainees from the West Bank. Physical violence and torture is commonplace and hundreds of Palestinians are detained without trial. Families of detainees who have West Bank IDs find it extremely difficult to obtain permission to visit them.
In 2007 G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority (IPA) allowing it to provide services to the Ketziot, Damon and Meggido prisons and the Jerusalem (Russian Compound) and Kishon (Jalameh) detention facilities. Ketziot and Meggido are known to house prisoners transferred from the West Bank.
G4S services provided in these prisons include control and monitoring systems, visitation systems and CCTV systems.
Prisons in the Occupied Territories
G4S has installed a central command room in Ofer Prison in the occupied West Bank. The Ofer compound also houses a trial centre where prisoners are tried under military law. Ofer Prison is located in what the Israeli military refers to as the ‘Seam Zone’, which means access for visiting families is highly restricted.
The apartheid wall and the checkpoints
G4S Israel has supplied luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners to several checkpoints in the West Bank, including the Qalandia checkpoint, the Bethlehem checkpoint and the Irtah (Sha’ar Efraim) checkpoint. Additionally, the company provides full body scanners to the Erez checkpoint in Gaza. According to Who Profits, a joint Palestinian-Israeli research initiative, G4S is also responsible for maintenance of this equipment. All of these checkpoints form part of the Israeli state’s network of walls and barriers impeding Palestinian freedom of movement.
At the London session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in November 2010, Merav Amir and Dr Dalit Baum gave evidence that G4S was operating security services at checkpoints and in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and for Israeli prisons where Palestinian prisoners were detained.
The Russell Tribunal concluded that it may be possible to bring a civil claim and a public law action against G4S for its actions in honouring these contracts. The civil claim would be under tort law and based on G4S’ supply of equipment to checkpoints that form part of the illegal route of the apartheid wall. The public law action would relate to G4S’ support of settlement businesses, which would constitute alleged complicity in violations of international criminal law.
G4S provides security equipment for the Israeli police headquarters in the occupied West Bank, which is located in the E-1 area, near the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. According to its annual report, G4S is also currently the preferred bidder for a PFI police training academy in Israel.
Services to businesses in illegal Israeli settlements
G4S provides services to “major commercial customers, for instance, supermarket chains, whose operations include the West Bank”. G4S Israel is also a minority shareholder in Shalhavet, which provides security services to residential West Bank settlements.
G4S has faced significant resistance from Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists in Europe, who have been urging the company to divest from Hashmira/G4S Israel and end its Israeli contracts for several years.
In April 2012, thousands of Palestinian detainees went on hunger strike calling for more access to their families and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention. Twelve Palestinian civil society organisations signed a callout urging the global solidarity movement to take action “to hold to account G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system, for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law.”
In addition to targeting the company directly (for example, in 2010 Palestine solidarity campaigners joined No Borders activists in a protest outside the G4S AGM in London), campaigners in Europe and the UK have also focused on targeting local councils that have contracts with G4S, demanding that they exclude the company from bidding in future. Pressure was especially strong in Denmark, where politicians made pronouncements and the public demonstrated against the company. Large pension funds, and even the city of Copenhagen, began to consider divesting from G4S.
Freedom of information requests have revealed that a number of councils in England including Birmingham, Bristol and Wakefield, have had, currently have, or are considering contractual arrangements with G4S.
The Cooperative Asset Management Annual Report states that the Coop had initially informed G4S that “proximity to human rights violations deems it unacceptable for our Sustainable Funds and asked G4S to demonstrate how activities in OPT could be justified both against its own human rights policies”. However, the Cooperative applauded G4S’ statement that it will pull out of future prison, apartheid wall, checkpoint and police work in the West Bank despite its refusal to exit prison contracts in Israel and services to business on the settlements.
Criticism of G4S' work in Palestine and Israel has already led to the company's losing contracts in Europe. In October 2011, for example, Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) passed a motion through its Student Council to block its contract with G4S, and to lobby the university to follow suit.
In April 2012, the European Union decided not to renew a security contract with G4S after MEPs and campaign groups raised concerns over the company’s role in equipping Israeli prisons in which Palestinian political prisoners are held in violation of international law. is the contract was a significant loss for G4S, which had provided security services to the European Parliament buildings since 2008.
Worried by the mounting criticism of its work in Palestine, G4S resolved in 2002 to pull out of contracts to provide services to residential West Bank settlements. In 2010, after further criticism from campaigners and investors, G4S commissioned Hjalte Rasmussen, an expert on international law, to investigate the legality of its contracts in the West Bank and Israel. The report concluded that G4S’ contracts did not violate any national or international laws. However, Rasmussen’s suggestion that G4S is beyond legal sanction is far from certain and has been strongly challenged, particularly with regard to his comments on prison services. While conducting his investigation, Rasmussen did not visit any Israeli prisons, yet he felt qualified to argue that the Palestinians detained in Ofer prison are “common criminals”, despite the widespread knowledge that Ofer houses Palestinian political prisoners and detainees. Rasmussen’s verdict of innocence for G4S was also based on an insistence that there was no evidence of “systematic abuse of prisoners in Israeli jails”, which directly contradicts the findings of numerous human rights groups.
In March 2011, in the wake of Rasmussen’s report, G4S announced that, “to ensure that our business practices remain in line with our own Business Ethics Policy, we will aim to exit a number of contracts which involve the servicing of security equipment at the barrier checkpoints, prisons and police stations in the West Bank. We will aim to complete this exit as soon as possible, but also recognise that we have contractual obligations to our customers which we must take into consideration.” The company made clear that it would continue servicing businesses in the settlements and prisons within Israel. It is likely that resistance against G4S will therefore continue until the company exits all its Israeli contracts.
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