UK student union to cancel G4S contract over role in Israeli prisons

The campaign against G4S is one way to take action in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners

The student union at the University of Kent in the southeast of England is to terminate its contract with G4S following an “outcry” over its role in human rights abuses in Palestine, South Africa, the UK and other countries.

G4S provides security and incarceration “services” to Israeli military bases, checkpoints, illegal settlements and prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to abuse and torture.

Kent Union announced during a meeting last week that it is to cancel its contract with G4S, which currently provides the union with cash handling services. The meeting overwhelmingly approved a motion condemning G4S, and the union is holding a student referendum this week to decide whether to launch a campaign to pressure the University of Kent to cancel its own, separate, contract with G4S.

Kent Union environment officer Tom Currie said the decision was taken following the “huge outcry” among students after details of G4S’ human rights abuses were highlighted on campus by the Palestine Society and other groups. Currie added that he hopes the university will now “respond by terminating their contract with G4S.”

Tortured to death

Randa Wahbe, advocacy officer at Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization that campaigns against G4S, told The Electronic Intifada that Addameer welcomed the Kent Union decision:

In light of the fact that two Palestinian prisoners, Husam Omar and Musa Soufian, are currently on hunger strike for 25 days in protest of their solitary confinement in Megiddo, an Israeli prison with G4S surveillance, and that in 2013 a Palestinian prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, was tortured to death in an interrogation cell with surveillance cameras installed by G4S, Addameer commends the student union at the University of Kent for taking a stand against corporate complicity and the human rights violations against Palestinians by terminating its contract with G4S.

Wahbe is due to visit the University of Kent next week during Israeli Apartheid Week as part of the Palestinian lives, British profits speaking tour organized by campaigning group War on Want that will also visit London, Essex, Durham and Scotland. 

Abuse around the world

As well as G4S’ role in Israeli apartheid, the student campaign against G4S by Kent students also cites the fact that the company has been widely condemned for its role in human rights abuses while a operating a prison in South Africa and while providing asylum and deportation “services” to the UK government.

UK authorities are currently deciding whether or not to procecute G4S for its role in the death of Jimmy Mubenga, who died while being “restrained” by G4S guards on a deportation flight in 2010. 

Lost contracts

The Kent Union boycott of G4S follows similar decisions by student unions at Edinburgh and Dundee and student campaigns that last year suceeded in preventing G4S from being awarded multi-million pound contracts at universities in London and Southampton.

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. 

The UK office of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (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. 

Clear choice

Research center Who Profits recently revealed that the contract G4S holds with the Israel Prison Service is due to expire in 2015.

So G4S now has a clear choice to make in the coming months: either it can choose not to renew its contract with the Israel Prison Service as a first step towards ending its complicity with Israeli apartheid, or it can remain an active participant in torture and detention without trial and continue to lose out on lucrative contracts as a result.




Solidarity & congratulations to Addameer, the Kent, Edinburgh and Durham and student unions & everyone else involved in this campaign.

Torture and detention without trial is the core business of G4S. Right now G4S guards are attacking illegally detained refugees with machetes & iron bars at a concentration camp run by G4S for the Australian government at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. One refugee has been killed & 77 injured.

The Manus Island camp is part of the racist Australian colonial-settler state's illegal policy of imprisoning all refugees arriving by boat, increasingly in "offshore" camps in South Pacicific island nations whose economies are controlled by Australia. Like the illegal racist policies of the Zionist colonial-settler state, this has proved a bonanza for evil mercenary outfits like G4S.

Here are some links with more information. Supporters of Palestine in Australia should come to the protest actions advertised.

[ps. other Australian crimes of G4S include the January 2008 murder of a respected Aboriginal elder, Mr Ward. He was baked to death in a prisoner transport vehicle. He had been arrested by WA police for minor driving offences.]

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