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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Boycott campaigns cost G4S two university contracts

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Student campaigners at King's College London hold a demonstration calling on the university not to award a lucrative security contract to G4S

Student campaigners at King’s College London hold a demonstration calling on the university not to award a lucrative security contract to G4S.

(KCL Action Palestine)

Two major UK universities have opted not to award G4S control of campus security services following student campaigns criticizing the company. G4S has a major role in providing security and equipment to Israeli prisons, settlements and checkpoints. 

G4S had been a front runner to win major contracts at both King’s College London (KCL) and the University of Southampton, having already supplied services to the two universities.

But last week both announced that they had chosen to hire other companies to manage and run security on campus. 

King’s College London Action Palestine, the student Palestine solidarity group that initiated a campus campaign against G4S, said in a statement that the decision was due to a “continuous effort of resistance and support by the KCL students and staff.”

KCL Action Palestine organized a protest on campus and a petition signed by more than 500 students. They successfully passed a motion in the KCL student union in support of the campaign, mandating the student union to back its campaign and lobby the university against G4S. 

The visible and broadly-supported mobilization against G4S certain seems to have impacted the final decision.

In a letter to KCL student union environment and ethics officer Alberto Torres, a representative of King’s College London university management said that the university was “willing to consider the views of students and other stakeholders about services provided under contract which may affect them.”

Celebration

Palestinian civil society organizations had originally called for campaigns against G4S on the eve of the spring 2012 hunger strike by 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners. G4S was targeted for its role equipping to Israeli prisons at which Palestinians are held without trial and subjected to torture.

Student campaigners at the University of Southampton are also celebrating after their university announced on Thursday that it had decided not to award G4S a contract to provide security on campus. In a statement, University of Southampton Students for Palestine said: 

We commend this decision and are glad to say that we have been assured, on behalf of the University, that student concerns are recognized and highly valued. The University invited activists to further discuss matters relating to its ethical investment and procurement policy with the hope of adopting a more comprehensive policy that truly reflects the moral ideals held by its students and the community.

A petition and public statement organized by University of Southampton Students for Palestine was signed by 24 student societies, with signatories ranging from the Marxist Society to the Taekwondo club.

In addition to raising concerns about its role in Israel’s prison system, the successful student campaigns at King’s and Southampton also both vocally opposed G4S’ role in abuses in the UK migration and deportation system.

In October 2010, 46-year-old Angolan Jimmy Mubenga was killed after G4S guards used “unreasonable force” to pin him down during deportation. An inquest in August found he had been unlawfully killed.

Student campaigns against G4S are also underway at several other UK universities, including at the University of Birmingham.

Growing momentum

The news of UK universities opting not to award G4S lucrative contracts follows decisions to exclude G4S from the contract tendering processes at universities in Oslo and Bergen in Norway due to their complicity with Israeli apartheid. 

The international campaign against G4S has seen public bodies, nongovernmental organizations and financial institutions across the world terminate their contracts with G4S

Last week, the renowned Trauma Centre in Cape Town terminated their ties and contract with G4S. The chairperson of the Trauma Centre, which played a crucial role in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, explained the decision in a public statement

The Trauma Centre is committed to creating a society free from violence and torture and committed to a culture of human rights … we therefore note with great concern the serious allegations leveled against the security company G4S of complicity in the illegal incarceration and torture of Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories … such acts would violate the very principles which form the basis of our existence as a human rights organisation. It is because of these serious concerns, which violate our fundamental values, that the Board of the Trauma Centre has decided to terminate our organisation’s relationship with G4S.