G4S retreat from settlements drags out
After massive criticism from a number or organisations and politicians, the world's largest security firm, Danish-British G4S, announced in March that it would pull out from a number of activities in Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.
Now, half a year later, G4S' legal manager, Søren Lundsberg, informs DanWatch that they will first pull out over several years between 2012 and 2015. The reason is that the company feels obligated to maintain existing contracts. The contracts which G4S wants to get out of in the coming years involve ”maintenance of security equipment in a prison, in a police station and in border checkpoints,” G4S writes to DanWatch.
Here G4S will continue as before
However, G4S will still be engaged in several activities in illegal settlements after 2015. For they have no plans to stop the provision of security services to banks and supermarkets inside the settlements.
G4S will also continue to supply security equipment to four prisons holding Palestinian security prisoners. Currently they are supplying equipment to the Ofer prison on the West Bank as well as four prisons in Israel: Megiddo, Kishon, Ketziot and Damon, which, according to the IPA (Israeli Police Association), all hold Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank. G4S will only be pulling out from one prison. They do not wish to disclose which one.
"Limitless ignorance of international law"
Margrethe Auken, Danish MEP from SF, is not impressed with the recent announcement of G4S: “The leadership of G4S shows that their ignorance is limitless when it comes to international law. They seem to think that the illegal status of Israeli settlements in the West bank is a political question, and that they therefore can remain neutral. This is of course not the case. The settlements are illegal according to international law, and that G4S directly and indirectly supports settlements is appaling," she says to DanWatch.
According to the IPA, the Ketziot prison holds 2,200 Palestinian 'security prisoners', ie. political prisoners, a proportion of which are 'administrative prisoners', meaning persons who have been imprisoned without trial.
In January 2011 8 children between 12 and 15 of age were inmates in the Ofer prison and 2 in the Megiddo prison. 85 children between the ages of 16 and 17 were detained in the Ofer prison, 66 in the Megiddo prison and 3 in the Kishon prison. According to the organisation Defence for Children International, children in Israeli prisons are often interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or a relative, and the children are often threatened or physically coerced to confess or sign documents which they do not comprehend.
Wants the contract with the EU Parliament Cancelled
Margrethe Auken will continue to put pressure on G4S: “We of course cannot in the European Parliament have a contract with a company that supports illegal settlements or prisons where human rights are violated. It has to have consequences and I will continue to work for that G4S either withdraws from all problematic contracts in Israel and the West bank, or the European Parliament cancels its contract with the company.” She says.
In July 2010 G4S took over a private Israeli security firm, Aminut Moked Artzi, which is responsible for security in the industrial zone of Barkan in the Ariel settlement. This activity does not figure as an activity that G4S intends to stop.
Foreign affairs minister: Do not carry out activities that risk contributing to the maintenance of illegal settlements
Since his appointment the new foreign affairs minister has already voiced harsh criticism of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Asked about G4S' involvement in the very same settlements, Villy Søvndal said: The government's position on Israeli settlement on the West Bank is very clear, namely that these settlements are illegal according to international law and pose an obstacle to peace. The government therefore urges companies not to carry out activities that risk contributing to maintenance of illegal settlements.
However, Villy Søvndal does not have any specific recommendations for G4S: "Companies are not bound by the Danish Middle East policy, but are themselves accountable for their conduct since there are no sanctions in relation to the occupied territories," he says.
Christian Juhl, spokesperson of the Enhedslisten Party, does not agree with Villy Søvdal:
"We must take this up for discussion in Foreign Policy Comittee, because I cannot belive that what Villy is expressing is official Danish policy. I am much more in agreement with EU parliamentarian of SF, Margrethe Auken, than Villy Søvndal(SF). To put it in a nice way, G4S cheated. Back when there was a tremendous pressure on them, they said they would withdraw, and now they only withdraw from just a few", he says and continues:
"G4S Should not provide services to Danish public companies if they at the same time are engaged in illegal settlements."
After DanWatch revealed G4S' activities on the West Bank, G4S has begun to establish an internal ethical committee whose task will be to assess whether contracts live up to G4S' ethical policies or international human rights.