[Update, September 10, 2015] : In April 2015, a group of Palestinian human rights organizations wrote a letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging the UN to terminate its contracts with international security company G4S due to its complicity in the Israeli occupation’s prison system and human rights violations as well as a record of grave human rights violations around the world.
Five months later, the UN has still not replied to the letter. Today, Palestinian human rights organizations joined by over 220 solidarity groups, trade unions, human rights organizations and migrant solidarity groups from around the world renew the call and urge the UN to cancel its contract with G4S because of the role the company plays in human rights abuses in Palestine and other parts of the world.
AURDIP signed the letter.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee is a member of an international coalition that is campaigning for the United Nations to drop G4S as a contractor due to its ongoing complicity in human rights violations in Palestine & around the world. A similar international campaign succeeded in pressuring the Bill Gates Foundation to divest from G4S last year.
Palestinian civil society groups recently wrote to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon to express their view that the UN is failing to implement its own ethical business rules by contracting with G4S because of its complicity in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights and international law. The organisations have received no reply.
Now the international coalition working on the campaign is asking for organisations to join us in putting pressure on the UN by signing a letter. The text of the letter is available to read here (and below).
Human rights organisations have come together to draft a letter to Ban Ki-moon and other key UN officers, urging them to respect Palestinian human rights and their own guidelines by ending its relationship with G4S.
Please add your organisation’s endorsement of the letter using this form. It would be great if you could respond by July 7. Please don’t publicise the letter until the final letter has been published.
The letter also discusses the role that G4S plays in labour rights violations and violent abuses in prisons around the world that it helps to run. You may want to consider reaching out to groups concerned about these issues and using this letter as a starting point for discussions.
Mr. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
760 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
We, the undersigned community organisations, trade unions, faith and student groups from around the world are deeply troubled that the United Nations has a number of major contracts with the international security company G4S, providing services to UN facilities and agencies, in violation of the UN’s own guidelines. We urge the UN to end its relationship with G4S due to the company’s clear and active role in human rights abuses.
G4S is complicit with Israel’s human rights violations and demonstrates by its actions that it does not support or respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights:
- G4S has an ongoing contract with the Israeli Prison Service to provide and maintain security systems at Israeli prisons that currently hold almost 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners[[Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer Monthly Detention Report, 1 April 2015, http://www.addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=765]]. Palestinian and international human rights organisations have documented widespread torture and mistreatment of Palestinian political prisoners, including of children.[[Defense for Children International, Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Custody Face Physical Violence, 20 January 2014, http://www.dci-palestine.org/documents/palestinian-children-israeli-military-custody-face-physical-violence]]
By maintaining security systems at Israel’s prisons, G4S assists Israel with its use of mass incarceration to deter Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s violations of international law. Through its involvement in prisons inside Israel, G4S is complicit in Israel’s violations of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.
- G4S provides equipment and services to checkpoints that make up the route of Israel’s Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; to private businesses in illegal Israeli settlements and to Israeli police facilities in other Israeli government buildings in the occupied West Bank.[[Who Profits from the Occupation, March 2011, The Case of G4S: Private Security Companies and the Israeli Occupation. http://whoprofits.org/g4s_report]]
- G4S has provided equipment to checkpoints that enforce the siege of Gaza.[[Ibid.]]
A legal study conducted by the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Resource Centre found that G4S has “failed to demonstrate a genuine commitment to comply with international law in good faith” and outlined various ways in which G4S is not in compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.[[Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Resource Centre, November 2013, Securing Injustice: Legal Analysis of G4S Israel Operations in Occupied Palestinian Territory. https://www.diakonia.se/globalassets/documents/ihl/ihl-resources-center/g4s-report.pdf]]
A 2012 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 criticised G4S for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law.[[United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 25 October 2012, “Boycott businesses that profit from Israeli settlements”—UN Special Rapporteur. http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12700&LangID=E#sthash.JPBKDM8B.dpuf]]
While G4S has made various commitments to end some aspects of its participation in Israeli human rights violations, it has not yet met any of these commitments, and has instead tried to deflect criticism of its role in Israeli human rights violations, including by hiring known pro-Israel advocates to write legal analyses of its activities in Palestine/Israel. These analyses, commissioned by G4S, are neither independent nor credible.[[Amena Saleem, 11 June 2014, G4S hires pro-Israel professor to whitewash war crimes, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/amena-saleem/g4s-hires-pro-israel-professor-whitewash-war-crimes]]
G4S commits grave human rights violations across the world
As well as its participation in Israel’s human rights violations, G4S commits grave human rights violations across the world:
- G4S has been implicated in labour rights violations at several of its global sites. Official complaints under OECD guidelines from G4S sites in Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa (and others) led to a G4S commitment to workers’ rights in 2008, but despite this, in the following years G4S was implicated in labour rights abuses in Uganda, South Korea, and South Africa, demonstrating that G4S cannot be trusted to maintain the fair conditions that it formally agrees to.[[War on Want, June 2014, G4S: Securing Profits, Globalising Injustice. http://www.waronwant.org/about-us/publications/doc_download/125-g4s-securing-profits-globalising-injustice.]]
- G4S has a dreadful track record of serious negligence and violent abuse in prisons it runs around the world. In the UK, G4S lost a contract for one of its multiple private prisons after evidence emerged of improper management of health care provision, suicide prevention and human rights protection. In South Africa, investigations exposed G4S security teams using electric shocks and forcible medical injections of anti-psychotic drugs at the Mangaung prison.[[Ibid.]] In the United States, G4S operates juvenile detention facilities, provides infrastructure to track and confine formerly incarcerated people, and works alongside Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection to detain and deport people across the U.S./Mexico border and to transfer immigrants to detention facilities across the country.[[Global Exchange, G4S Worldwide, http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/g4s/worldwide.]]
- G4S has also been criticised for its responsibility for deaths in custody during deportation and immigrant detention. In one well-known case, Angolan national Jimmy Mubenga was suffocated to death by three G4S guards while being deported in 2010.[[Karon Monaghan QC, 31 July 2013, Inquest into the Death of Jimmy Kelenda Mubenga. http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/JimmyMubenga_R43.pdf]] In another case, a Kenyan national Eliud Nguli Nyenze died at a G4S removal center run by G4S, after he was refused medicine earlier in the day despite his complaints of severe pain.[[Ibid.]] G4S received 1,497 complaints in three years regarding its human rights record in these deportation institutions.[[War on Want, June 2014, G4S: Securing Profits, Globalising Injustice.]]
The obligation of the UN to uphold human rights
The UN Supplier Code of Conduct states “the UN expects its suppliers to support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and to ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses”.
The UN Group on the Use of Mercenaries recently reported the risks of hiring companies with tarred human rights records.[[21 August 2014, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of people to self-determination.http://psm.du.edu/media/documents/international_regulation/united_nations/human_rights_council_and_ga/wg_on_mercenaries/reports_and_statements/a-69-338_english.pdf]]
We urge the UN to apply its own principles and standards and to end its relationship with G4S due to its clear and active role in human rights abuses.