Prisoners day marked with global actions against G4S as Scottish union congress endorses campaign

Scottish Trade unions stand in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners and supports campaign to boycott G4S

Scottish PSC

As 3,000 Palestinian political prisoners refused meals and demonstrations were held across Palestine to mark Palestinian prisoners day on Wednesday, international activists held solidarity protests and events in cities across the world.

In at least 11 countries, actions and events focused on G4S, the British-Danish security company that is contracted to provide and maintain security equipment at Israeli prisons including control and monitoring systems, cameras and control rooms in which Palestinians are illegally detained and subjected to torture.

In February, Arafat Jaradat died after being detained in Israel’s Meggido prison and reportedly being subjected to torture in the al-Jalameh interrogation facility. G4S provides and maintains equipment to both facilities.

At the Scottish Trades Union Congress, delegates held a show of support for Palestinian prisoners and voted to campaign to pressure G4S to abandon its role in facilitating Israel’s detention of prisoners and child prisoners.

Action around the world

In Morocco, a coalition of 14 human rights and law organizations held a press conference in Rabat to launch a Moroccan campaign against the company. Sion Asidon, from BDS Maroc, explained that the campaign will raise awareness about the need to boycott G4S among a broad public including organizations, official agencies and G4S’ clients.

Human rights and campaigning organizations from across Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine marked the day by issuing a statement calling for the exclusion of G4S from public and private contracts and on the European Union to stop contracting G4S to provide security at its diplomatic missions in the Arab world.

Prisoner rights campaign group Addameer launched a new campaign against administrative detention (Israel’s use of detention without trial on the basis of secret evidence). As part of the campaign, Addameer is calling for action against G4S and produced a fact sheet detailing the company’s complicity with human rights abuses of prisoners in 10 langauges.

More than 75 persons demonstrated outside G4S’ central London offices and there were actions outside G4S premises and in town centers across 10 other UK cities.

Film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, playwright Caryl Churchill and actor Miriam Margolyes were among the signatories to a letter to public broadcaster the BBC urging it to “recognize there is a public interest in excluding G4S from the tendering process.” The letter also drew attention to G4S’ record of human rights abuses in the UK migrant detention system. Labor Party MP Sandra Osbourne called on the government to withhold public contracts from G4S in a letter to the Guardian newspaper.

In the Netherlands, students and activists held a stunt and public meeting at the University of Delft, where G4S provides campus security, and a public meeting in the Hague.

Demonstrations took place in several Norwegian cities and campaigners there have published an interactive map detailing the company’s involvement in Israeli prisons, checkpoints, apartheid wall and illegal settlements.

Elsewhere in Europe, protests and events drawing attention to the fact that G4S profits from Israel’s human rights abuses were held in cities across Denmark, Luxembourg and Poland.

G4S boycott starts to bite

An appeal launched by Palestinian human rights organizations on prisoner’s day last year for action to hold G4S accountable for its role in Israel’s prison system has been taken up by solidarity organizations, trade unions and nongovernmental organizations across the world. Even more significantly, G4S has started to lose business and suffer damage to its reputation over its complicity.

In Norway, where the campaign against G4S is supported by 22 civil society organizations including several trade unions and mainstream nongovernmental organizations including Norwegian People’s Aid and Amnesty International Norway, the University of Oslo announced that it will terminate its contract with G4S after a campaign by students and academics.    

Charities in the Netherlands have cut their ties to G4S in protest at its human rights abuses,

In Denmark, a broad coalition has mobilized hundreds of people to take part in actions targeting G4S. Amnesty International Denmark, Danish Church Aid and the Rehabilitation and Research Center for Torture Victims have all ended contracts with G4S.

Dundee University Student Association in Scotland recently voted to terminate the contract it directly holds with G4S, following on from a similar vote by students at Edinburgh University in 2011 to pressure the university to cut its ties to the company. The students’ union at Queen Mary University in London has initiated a campaign to persuade the university to terminate its contract with G4S.

Municipal and bank workers and trade unions in the Rio Grande do Sol region of Brazil are organizing a campaign against G4S, which provides equipment to many local buildings and businesses.

In South Africa, students and academics at the University of Cape Town are campaigning against G4S’ contract with the university.

G4S bosses duck responsibility

G4S has already shown itself vulnerable to pressure, attempting to placate its critics by saying it will pull out of some of its projects in illegal Israeli settlements. However, G4S has refused even to acknowledge increasing public anger with its role in prisons inside Israel at which many of Israel’s gravest human rights violations are committed and looks set to continue help Israel run its prisons.

Continued pressure and further lost contracts may well push the company to end more aspects of its complicity with Israeli apartheid.

G4S chief executive Nick Buckles was recently awarded a pay rise and will earn up to £4.5 million ($6.9 million) next year. He and the other highly paid G4S executives should be reminded that those outrageous pay packets are funded by signing lucrative contracts with oppressive regimes such as Israel and as a direct result of grave human rights violations.

Let’s make sure Buckles is confronted of the realities of Israel’s prison system, such as the story of Emad al-Ashhab, a Palestinian held in a prison serviced by G4S

At the age of 17, Emad was arrested and detained for nearly a year on four successive administrative detention orders. On the day of his arrest, Israeli soldiers covered his face with a woolen bag, shackled his hands and feet, and beat him all over his body with a stick. They also burnt his hand with cigarettes. In a survey of 50 cases of children prisoners conducted by Defense for Children International in 2000-2001, 100 percent of the children interviewed were subject to torture and 95 percent were beaten by soldiers during arrest. Emad was held at Ofer Prison, serviced by G4S


Michael Deas

Michael Deas's picture

Michael Deas is a Palestine solidarity organiser based in the UK.

He was formerly a campaigns officer with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian civil society coalition that acts as the Palestinian reference of the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. 

You can get regular BDS updates from the BNC by following @BDSmovement. Michael Tweets from @michaeldeas