Palestine campaigners celebrate exclusion of occupation profiteer G4S from Irish government contract
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) today hailed the Irish government’s decision to award the lucrative JobPath state contract to tender applicants other than the Anglo-Danish G4S security firm. The IPSC had run a campaign calling on the government not to grant this to G4S which it says both enables and profiteers from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The IPSC, along with several other human rights organisations and concerned individuals, sent a letter to the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, under whose auspices the JobPath scheme is being operated, outlining our opposition to the inclusion of G4S in the scheme due to their occupation activities in Palestine, most notoriously their presence in the Israeli prison system.
Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer and human rights organisation Al-Haq both also sent letters, while the IPSC ran an online campaign asking members and supporters to also write directly to the Department making their opposition to G4S known. The IPSC also organised several protests and information stalls highlighting the role of G4S in the Israeli prison system, including a symbolic blockade of a G4S van on Grafton Street.
Martin O’Quigley, IPSC Chairperson, today said “We are celebrating the fact that G4S, which for many years has facilitated the imprisonment and torture of Palestinians in Israel’s illegal prison system, has lost yet another contract. We are glad that the Irish state has chosen not to give taxpayers’ money to this notorious corporation. This is a small victory for Palestinians, and we hope it will encourage G4S to remove itself from all operations that help enforce the brutal, decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
In June, G4S announced at its AGM that it “will end all its Israeli prison contracts within the next three year”, along with its services at Israeli checkpoints. However, as Randa Wahbe of Addameer noted, ” This has no immediate effect on those facing human rights violations inside Israel’s prisons today [and] G4S has a long track record of saying one thing but doing another”. Therefore the IPSC believes that pressure on G4s to divest from Israel must be kept up until such time as it has ceased providing such service.
Michael Deas, European Coordinator of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Nation Committee says that “Since the campaign against G4S was launched in 2012 by Addameer and other prisoner organizations, G4S has lost contracts with universities, banks, charities and public bodies around the world. Furthermore, the OECD is currently preparing an investigation into G4S following a complaint by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights that the company is breaching OECD guidelines on business and human rights.”
As noted in the joint letter to the Dept. Social Protection: “G4S provides security systems for major Israeli prisons, including the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons that hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory, inside Israel in contravention of international law. The company has also provided equipment for Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners. In February 2013, Jaradat Arafat died following interrogation in a G4S-secured facility.
“In addition to these unlawful activities, G4S provides equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal wall, and to the terminals isolating the occupied territory of Gaza. G4S holds contracts for the provision of equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements. The EU has recently issued a directive excluding trade with settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. A panel of legal experts have concluded that G4S may be criminally liable for its activities in support of Israel’s illegal wall and other violations of international law.”
 This letter was signed by Academics for Palestine, AfrI, Donal O’Kelly, Elaine Bradley, Gaza Action Ireland, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Irish Anti-War Movement, Mairead Maguire, Palestinian Community in Ireland, Peace and Neutrality Alliance, Ruairi McKiernan, Sadaka – the Ireland Palestine Alliance, Shannonwatch and Trade Union Friends of Palestine.
The letter in full reads:
21 March 2014
Dear Minister Burton,
It has come to our attention that G4S is leading a consortium to tender for the JobPath contract being offered by your department. As a group of organisations and individuals working for human rights in Palestine, we strongly urge you not to award this contract to G4S on the grounds of their complicity with Israel’s occupation and breaches of international law.
Ireland has taken a strong position on human rights in Palestine, funding the work of organisations such as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Further, Ireland’s commitment to upholding the Geneva Conventions is clearly stated on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website:
Ireland is firmly committed to the effective application and further development of international humanitarian law. Ireland played an active role in the negotiation of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, recognising it as an essential means for bringing to justice those responsible for the most serious international crimes, including grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other serious violations of the laws and customs of law (‘war crimes’).
G4S provides security systems for major Israeli prisons including the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons that hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel in contravention of international law. The company has also provided equipment for Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners[i], including child prisoners (see the UNICEF Report Children in Israeli Military Detention, 2013)[ii]. In February 2013, Jaradat Arafat died following interrogation in a G4S – secured facility[iii].
In addition to these unlawful activities, G4S provides equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal wall, and to the terminals isolating the occupied territory of Gaza. G4S holds contracts for the provision of equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements. The EU has recently issued a directive excluding trade with settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. A panel of legal experts have concluded that G4S may be criminally liable for its activities in support of Israel’s illegal wall and other violations of international law[iv].
Labour MEP for Dublin, Emer Costello, Is currently leading a cross-party European Parliament delegation to Israel to examine the situation of Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons.
According to Emer Costello, MEP “The visit takes place on foot of a European Parliament resolution adopted in March 2013, following the death of a Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat. More than 200 Palestinians lost their lives in Israeli prisons and detention centres since 1967 and the resolution highlighted the plight of prisoners being held in Israel.
“Israel continues to extensively use administrative detention, without formal charge or trial, against Palestinians as a substitute to fair judicial process. Palestinian prisoners are held in prisons and detention centres that are, all but one, located inside Israel, which creates major obstacles to family visits. Women remain a particularly vulnerable group among Palestinian prisoners while hundreds of Palestinian children under the age of 18 are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army and prosecuted through Israeli military courts every year.”
The EU delegation has been denied access to Israel’s prisons by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. This is the system, lacking in transparency and accountability, that G4S is party to.
Awareness of G4S’s role in Israel/Palestine and its infringements of international law and the Geneva Convention are increasing[v]. 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”. The contract was a significant loss for G4S, which had provided security services to the European Parliament buildings since 2008[vi]. The OECD is due to investigate G4S’s supplying of equipment for checkpoints “in contravention of its guidelines for multinational enterprises – a set of Government-backed recommendations for “responsible business conduct” overseas.”[vii] In addition, G4S is being actively opposed by civil society groups around the world for its role in controversial deportation and imprisonment regimes, abuse of workers rights, and violations of universal human rights standards, which have led to the deaths of prisoners in its custody[viii] [ix]
To award a contract to G4S, would be incongruent with the principled position that Ireland has taken in relation to human rights in Israel/Palestine and would serve to seriously undermine the integrity of that position.