A campaign which was joined by notable figures including film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, and novelist Ahdaf Soueif, calling on the BBC not to award a multi-million pound security contract to G4S appears to have been successful.
This month, the £80 million ($132 million) contract to provide “manned guarding and security services” across all the BBC’s premises was awarded to G4S’ rival, First Security. The three-year contract, which has an option to be extended for two extra years, comes into effect on 1 April.
The campaign to block any successful bid from G4S was launched early last year when the bidding process was announced, and was co-ordinated by the Stop G4S Network.
In April, the Network sent an open letter to BBC director general, Tony Hall, pointing out that: “G4S directly supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands through provision of guards to illegal settlements and electronic systems in checkpoints as part of the illegal ‘Apartheid Wall.’”
The letter continued: “It supplies security services to prisons and detention centers within Israel which hold Palestinian prisoners illegally transferred from the occupied territories in violation of the Fouth Geneva Convention. These include children, despite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory.”
The letter was signed by more than 100 people, including Loach, Leigh and Soueif.
Many patrons of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a member of the Stop G4S Network, also signed on, including the author William Dalrymple, poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, and member of parliament Jeremy Corbyn.
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and Football Beyond Borders were among the groups to add their signatures to a letter which demonstrated the strength of feeling against such a lucrative contract going to a firm so complicit in Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people signed PSC’s petition to the BBC, which called on the organization not to spend licence fee-payers’ money — the compulsory charge paid by most UK households to finance the public broadcaster — on a deal with G4S.
She said: “We are delighted that the BBC has taken on board the concerns of their viewers and listeners and not awarded this lucrative contract to G4S.
“The BBC must be well aware by now of the controversy that surrounds G4S’ involvement in human rights abuses against Palestinians. For the BBC to associate itself with such a company would have been deeply damaging to the BBC’s reputation.”
G4S’ role in Palestine is not the only stain on its record, however. Today it was announced that three men who worked as security guards for G4S are to be charged with manslaughter over the death at Heathrow airport of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man who was being forcibly deported in 2010.
Mubenga, 46, died after falling ill as the aircraft was about to take off. He had been restrained by the G4S security guards.
G4S is also at the at the center of allegations over rioting and the death of a detainee on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where the Australian government has hired the firm to operate an offshore detention facility for asylum seekers.
The awarding of the contract is the first time the BBC has chosen one national security provider to cover all its premises. A BBC spokesperson confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that the organization does not have any separate contracts with G4S.
Series of blows
The BBC’s decision is the latest in a series of blows to G4S, whose annual general meeting in 2013 was upstaged by activists from PSC, War on Want and Stop G4S, who posed as shareholders in order to confront board members with their company’s involvement in human rights abuses.
In December 2013, the Dutch trade union, Abvakabo, severed its links with G4S. Three months earlier, the Dutch Green Left party (GroenLinks) announced it would no longer make use of G4S security services for its national office in 2014 due to the company’s “activities in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.”
In the last four months in the UK, universities and student unions in London, Kent, Southampton and Dundee have severed or voted to sever links with G4S, a move replicated in Norway by the universities of Bergen and Oslo.
And so the BBC’s decision highlights what G4S must already know — that the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is growing and working and no amount of slick PR will be able to gloss over the reputational damage caused by association with Israel’s human rights abuses.