Protests at G4S, profiting from policing people, from Palestinians to Olympics
* Shareholders handed an alternative annual report detailing violations
* G4S contracts with Israeli Prison Service condemned as three Palestinian prisoners enter 81st day of hunger strike
* Company accused of hiring establishment figures to escape censure for track record of abuse in UK immigration and prison system
More than 70 people demonstrated outside the G4S Annual General Meeting this afternoon to protest against the company’s horrendous human rights record in various ‘markets’, from Israeli prisons and UK immigration detention centres to destroying public services.
Campaigners met shareholders at the entrance and handed them an alternative annual report that looked like a real G4S publication, but criticised the conduct of the private security company in its dealings with the UK and Israeli governments.
The company lost its contract to deport refused migrants from the UK last September after 773 complaints of abuse were made against the company and following the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum seeker who died after being “restrained” by G4S guards.
Despite this, G4S has recently been awarded contracts to provide housing for asylum seekers, organise security for the Olympic games and run huge parts of the Lincolnshire police force.
The company also runs six prisons where 400 prisoners are hired for 40 hours a week for as little as £2 a day.
G4S looks set to be awarded further immigration, policing and prison contracts and to take on a greater role in the NHS.
“G4S has manoeuvred itself into a pole position to profit from the coalition government’s plans to destroy public services through slashing workers’ pay and sacrificing the quality of services, as well as by hiring establishment figures like former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Paul Condon as board members. Poorer services, less accountability, more profits.” said Shiar Youssef of Corporate Watch, a research organisation which recently published a comprehensive profile detailing the company’s activities and alleged crimes. [Report]
G4S also provides equipment to Israeli prisons in which Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners, are illegally held and tortured.
More than 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners recently held a mass hunger strike and several remain on hunger strike. Palestinian organisation Addameer last night warned that the three Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 81 days face an “imminent threats to their lives”.
“Israel systematically denies Palestinian political prisoners their basic rights, including the right to a fair trial and to protection from arbitrary detention and torture. How can the UK government give lucrative public contracts to a company that has chosen to facilitate the denial of such basic rights?” asked Diana Neslen of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Israel is forbidden to transfer Palestinian prisoners from occupied territories to prisons inside Israel by Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Despite this, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are unlawfully held in prisons inside Israel that are supplied by G4S.
G4S also provides equipment and services to Israeli settlements, checkpoints and the illegal Apartheid Wall.
The protest was supported by Palestine Place, a newly reclaimed space in central London hosting two weeks of workshops and discussions in support of Palestine.
1. The action was supported by the Boycott Israel Network, Corporate Watch, Croydon Migrant Solidarity, Defend the Right to Protest, Friends of al-Aqsa, International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, No Borders London, No One is Illegal, Palestine Place, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group, Stop Deportation Network, War on Want, Yorkshire Region Plus No to G4S Campaign.
2. The alternative report is available here
3. For more information on the Jimmy Mubenga case, see here
4. For latest on Palestinian political prisoners
5.For more information on the role of G4S in Israel and Palestine, see here
Donald Macintyre reveals the growing row about a company which also works in the West Bank’s ‘illegal’ Jewish settlements
By Donald Macintyre, The Independent,
The government will be challenged in parliament next week over the services provided in Israeli settlements within occupied Palestinian territory by the company chosen to run security for London 2012.
G4S, designated as “official provider of security and cash services for the Olympics,” also operates in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, seen by the UK – and nearly all other countries represented at the Games – as illegal in international law.
The prominent businessman and Labour peer Lord Hollick will table a written question on Monday asking ministers what steps they have taken to ensure that the UK-based company does not provide security services in illegal settlements in the West Bank. G4S, which bills itself the “world’s leading international security solutions group” has already taken on 10,400 new employees for the Olympics.
The move follows fresh international condemnation of Israel’s settlement expansion, which the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is determined to continue. This week he announced plans – swiftly denounced by the US – to build another 850 Jewish homes in the West Bank to compensate for the evacuation ordered by the Supreme Court of an outpost housing 30 families.
William Hague has repeatedly condemned the settlements, saying in April that “systematic, illegal Israeli settlement activity poses the most significant and live threat to the viability of the two-state solution… the Israeli government’s policy is illegal under international law, counter-productive, destabilising and provocative.”
G4S has already been criticised for providing and maintaining screening equipment for several West Bank military checkpoints. It also provides security systems at the Ofer complex near Ramallah – which houses a jail and military court at which Palestinian detainees, including children, are held and tried – and at the West Bank police headquarters in the E1 corridor linking the large settlement of Maale Adumim with Jerusalem. The construction of the latter was strongly opposed by the international community, including the Bush administration in the US.
In response to pressure the company has decided to “exit” the contracts covering Ofer, the checkpoints and the West Bank police HQ, though it says it will not be able to complete that process before 2015. However, it says that contracts with Israeli retailers and with banks operating in the settlements will remain intact, as will some for home security systems. G4S installs and maintains alarm systems in retail and other commercial outlets in the West Bank and provides a “small number” of security officers to “prevent theft of items in transit or within retail stores”.
In the ultra-orthodox settlement of Modiin Illit this week, a uniformed security guard, wearing the company’s insignia, was working in the local branch of the Zol Veshefa, a nationwide Israeli supermarket chain; its logo was also displayed at the Yesh Hakol Vebezol store. The two stores serve the settlement’s 46,000 Jewish residents. The company, which could not say what proportion of its Israeli subsidiary’s £120m revenue last year was taken in the West Bank, also took part last year in a career day at Ariel College, in the settlement of Ariel.
Nor has it withdrawn from contracts to provide and service perimeter security systems and control rooms in jails inside Israel, including ones housing inmates among the 1,500 who took part in the recent mass hunger strike against conditions and administrative detention without trial.
Some Israeli NGOs point out that the incarceration of Palestinian prisoners in Israel is a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory. Israel’s Supreme Court has long maintained that national law — the emergency regulations governing detention — overrides international law on such transfers.
The detention of prisoners, along with the checkpoints, was highlighted in a 2010 report by the Co-operative’s asset management arm, which said G4S had fallen foul of the “proximity to human rights abuses” criterion of those of its funds that are ethically screened.
G4S said: “Our policy is always to comply with national law in any jurisdiction in which we operate. We take our ethical responsibilities very seriously and operate to high standards around the world.” In March 2011 it had engaged a Danish international law professor, Hjalte Rasmussen, who examined its West Bank operations and concluded that G4S “did not violate any national or international law”.
A subsequent management review found that “a number of our contracts with private enterprises for traditional security and alarm monitoring services were not discriminatory or controversial and… helped to provide safety and security for the general public no matter what their background”.
In fact Palestinians are barred by the military from entering Israeli settlements without permits. Emily Schaeffer, an Israeli human rights attorney, said yesterday that the company’s non-discrimination claim was a “red herring”, adding: “Even if it were true that businesses in settlements were equally accessible to Palestinians… the mere presence of Israeli civilian settlement, residential and commercial, in occupied territory is unequivocally a violation of international law.”
The Foreign Office itself signed a three-year £27m contract in March 2010 with G4S to provide security services in the UK and Afghanistan. The FCO said yesterday that G4S provided a “valuable service” protecting its staff. But it added: “We have made clear our position on settlements to G4S and other private companies who operate in Israel and the Occupied Territories.”
Christian Aid said that “international companies such as GS4 should not be [doing anything] that contributes to human rights violations in occupied Palestinian territory, including working with businesses in illegal settlements… Working inside them only perpetuates their existence, entrenches occupation, obstructs Palestinian economic development and thus puts peace even further out of reach.”
Around 70 protesters demonstrated outside the company’s annual general meeting yesterday against what its “horrendous human rights record” in various locations, including Israeli prisons.
• Activists attack security firm’s conduct outside AGM venue
• Shareholders remonstrate over abortive bid for rival ISS
Julia Kollewe, guardian.co.uk
The boss of G4S, the world’s largest security company, has admitted that last year’s abortive £5.2bn takeover of Danish rival ISS has forced the company to change its acquisition strategy, making big deals a thing of the past.
The fiasco, which sparked a sell-off in the shares and eventually cost chairman Alf Duch-Pedersen his job, also damaged relations with shareholders, which the board is still trying to repair.
Nick Buckles, chief executive of G4S, said that big deals were off the agenda and the company would revert to pursuing smaller acquisitions, worth £200m to £300m. He wants to expand in Brazil, China and India, as well as the UK.
The British-Danish security group held its annual meeting at the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday, which attracted dozens of protesters from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Global Women’s Strike and the All African Women’s Group to Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral. Their chanting could be heard inside the stock exchange; the banners on display ranged from “G4S Securing Apartheid” to “End the Siege on Gaza” and “Justice for Jimmy Mubenga”, the Angolan asylum seeker who died while being deported from the UK by G4S in 2010.
G4S – the world’s second-largest commercial employer after American retailer Walmart – runs six prisons as well as detention centres for asylum seekers in Britain, looks after security in several UK hospitals, runs anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, and provides security services and equipment to Israeli prisons and settlements.
Campaigners said they handed shareholders an “alternative annual report” that criticised the conduct of the security company in its dealings with the UK and Israeli governments. G4S and three of its guards are being investigated over the death of Mubenga, who collapsed after being heavily restrained on a commercial flight from Heathrow, according to passengers. G4S lost the multimillion-pound government contract to deport foreign nationals shortly after, but its rival Reliance had already been identified as the lead bidder prior to Mubenga’s death. A decision over whether to charge the guards is imminent, the director of public prosecutions said in March.
Journalists were not allowed into the shareholder meeting, which was attended by about 50 investors. At a press briefing afterwards, Buckles said shareholders asked questions about the company’s acquisition strategy, the £55m cost of the failed ISS acquisition and the London Olympics, where G4S is providing 10,000 security staff. The group has been criticised for charging high prices to London 2012 for its security services: the contracts are worth £284m.
“We had a good relationship with shareholders going into the ISS deal,” said Buckles. “They didn’t like the deal, some were more upset than others. [At the AGM] some said ‘you wasted £50m’ … These things take a little bit of time to heal. We’re 70 to 80% of the way there.”
He said investors did not ask any questions about executive pay, which has featured prominently in the series of investor revolts that has become known as the “shareholder spring”. They prompted the departure of several chief executives, including Aviva’s Andrew Moss and AstraZeneca’s David Brennan. Buckles had pre-empted any criticism bywaiving his £750,000 bonus in March. He still took home £1.9m in 2011, down from the previous year’s £2.5m. He joked that G4S had already had a “shareholder autumn”, referring to the investor revolt that thwarted the ISS deal.
“Me [sic] and the team didn’t think it was appropriate [to take a bonus] for a number of reasons,” said Buckles.
The company’s pre-tax profits slumped by 17% following the £55m in fees paid to investment bankers and layers working on the ISS bid.
But Buckles rejected the suggestion that other company executives should follow suit if things go wrong. “It’s down to your own motivation,” he said. “There has to be a way of assessing what constitutes good or bad performance. Boards or individuals should be capable of making those judgments, and they should be trusted to make those judgments.”
The remuneration report was approved by 98.8% of the proxy votes cast ahead of the meeting, with only 63.5% of the issued share capital voted. Results on the other resolutions were not disclosed as the Danish stock exchange had already closed.