In a major success for the campaign against Israeli prison contractor G4S, the University of Oslo has announced that it will terminate its contract with the company in July 2013.
G4S is a private security company that has a contract to provide equipment and services to Israeli prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners, are detained and mistreated. G4S also provides equipment and services to checkpoints, illegal settlements and businesses in settlements. The Israeli government recently confirmed that G4S also provides equipment to Israel’s illegal apartheid wall.
Student activists with the Palestine Committee at the University of Oslo began campaigning in August for the university to not renew its contract with G4S, which has been providing security services on campus since 2010. Campaigners plastered the campus with “Boycott G4S” stickers that imitated real G4S stickers and the student parliament voted to support the campaign. Students have also held demonstrations and other actions on campus.
The university had the option to extend the contract for another year beyond its original expiry date of March 2013 but has now negotiated a termination date of 1 July 2013. The University of Oslo does not want to “support companies that operate in an ethical grey area” and new ethical procurement guidelines will be developed to prevent any future contracts with companies involved in human rights abuses, university director Ole Petter Ottersen has said.
In November, a petition signed by 21 organizations including trade unions, political parties and nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International was sent to G4S Norway. The signatories stated: ”G4S must immediately withdraw from all activities on occupied Palestinian land and halt all deliveries to Israeli prisons in which Palestinian prisoners are imprisoned in violation of the Geneva conventions.”There are campaigns against G4S in several other European countries including Denmark, Sweden, the UK and Belgium and several public bodies, nongovernmental organizations and private companies have already been succesfully persuaded to cut their ties to the company.
While attempting to defend its support for Israeli violations of international law to Norwegian media outlets, G4S repeated earlier claims that it intends to pull out of several contracts to provide equipment to Israeli settlements and checkpoints by 2015, creating the false impression that it is ending all support for Israeli violations of international law.
Yet if G4S is serious about ending its complicity, why doesn’t it end all involvement in settlements immediately? The comapny has so far not announced any plans to end its provision of security services to private businesses in illegal Israeli settlements.
Most importantly, G4S continues to omit any mention of its role in prisons inside Israel in its public communications in response to campaigns, making clear its intent to continue its role in the Israeli prison system, underlining the need for continued campaigning.