Many years ago my husband worked for a security firm. That was when electronics were in their infancy and the small security firms were interested only in fire and theft. He left them after they decided to invest in apartheid South Africa. But electronics have come a long way since then and the larger sharks in the pool swallowed up the minnows until large corporations became the norm. Thus it was that our very own business Securicor joined together with the Danish company Group 4 Falck to become an international conglomerate G4S. This corporation was formed in 2004 when Securicor plc and Group 4 Falck, the Danish company consolidated their holdings and became the world’s largest ‘security’ company. In 2002 the company had bought the Israeli security firm Hashmira.
Security is now big business. It no longer just protects the customer from theft and fire, but is much more related to managing ‘threats’ from those outside the system: prisoners, protesters, refugees, asylum seekers; in short those whose lives are less valuable. And Governments find it useful to outsource these activities to companies protected from Freedom of Information requests, unaccountable to the taxpayer who picks up the tab, and opaque in their commitment to the human rights agenda.
G4S is the almost undisputed leader in this field. As a Jewish activist in Jews for Justice for Palestinians, I am particularly interested together with other activists, in companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. In that vein, I attended the Russell Tribunal on Palestine when they took evidence about allegations relating to companies complicit in Israeli violations of international law. One of the companies with extensive documented evidence of illegality is G4S
The allegations G4S’ complicity with Israeli violations of international law are contained in a report from “Who Profits”, a research project of the Israeli organisation “Coalition of Women for Peace”.
The allegations can be summarised thus:
1. G4S has provided security equipment and services to incarceration facilities holding Palestinian political prisoners inside Israel and in the occupied West Bank.
2. The company offers security services to businesses in settlements.
3. G4S has provided equipment and maintenance services to Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank.
4. Finally, the company has also provided security systems for the Israeli police headquarters in the West Bank.
Initially G4S did not respond with anything like alacrity to the evidence presented, but once it became clear that concern was aroused in the Scandinavian countries, they stated that they would be withdrawing their investment in the military checkpoints in the West Bank and in the Israeli police headquarters in the West Bank. They would though still provide security services to businesses in the illegal settlements, built on Palestinian land for Jewish Israeli settlers.
However the most important part of their investment in the Israeli matrix of security is their commitment to supply security services to the prisons within Israel which hold Palestinian prisoners.
These allegations are important because by supporting the Israeli Occupation in these ways, G4S is assisting in grave breaches of the 4th Geneva Convention. For example, Article 76(1) states that prisoners from an occupied territory should be detained within that territory and not outside it, as they are if they are held in Israel. Thus by providing facilities to these prisons G4S is complicit in a war crime.
According to Israeli official statistics from Jan. 31, 2012, there were 4,357 detainees (162 of which are children). Of these detainees, 309 are in arbitrary detention held without trial or release date on the basis of secret evidence. The number of prisoners that have been charged and sentenced is 3,215, among them 1,987 serving out sentences longer than 20 years. As of February 26th the number has risen to 4,600. There is compelling evidence that torture takes place and certainly the children captured, often in the dead of night and brought before military courts in chains, are subject to outrageous abuse, against the strictures of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which Israel has signed, but not implemented with respect to Palestinians.
Many prisoners, released amid much fanfare in exchange for the soldier Gilad Shalit, have now been re-arrested, including administrative detainee, Hana al Shalabi, on the twentieth day of her hunger strike, denied the doctor of her choice, and having been strip searched by a male Israeli soldier and assaulted following arrest.
Although G4S managed to obtain legal justification from Professor Rasmussen for their actions, we have received legal advice endorsed by Professor John Dugard which alleges that they have a case to answer for complicity in war crimes.
As States increasingly devolve their public responsibility to private corporate interests and as they distance themselves from their role as guardians of the public realm, they ever more mouth the mantra of ‘security’ to protect their power from those without resource. A country that prides itself on its ‘security’ expertise is of course Israel, which increasingly works in tandem with Western countries to maintain protection from the ever present ‘threats’. Corporations like G4S would naturally gravitate towards this country, which has used its 44 year occupation to hone its security apparatus, to maintain their commercial edge.
G4S is increasingly the preferred choice for a wide range of public provision. Ambulances and paramedic uniforms are proudly decorated with their logo.’G4S working together with the NHS.’ For many of us, aware of the nature of this company, it is beyond belief that so compromised a corporation could be considered worthy of any consideration at all. We need to be aware that their tentacles stretch far and the only way we can be effective against their reach, is to work together to expose them. As campaigners against this company we would support any actions designed to stop them in their tracks and bring to public attention their toxic behaviour. Our strength can only come from uniting in common purpose.