South African human rights organisation terminates G4S contract
After being approached by the Palestine solidarity and human rights organisation, BDS South Africa, the renowned Cape Town based "Trauma Centre" has terminated their ties and contract with the controversial security company G4S. James Taylor, the Chairperson of the Trauma Centre, in an official statement posted online, explains the organisation's decision:
"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 levelled 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."
In the statement, Taylor also adds that the board of The Trauma Centre considered G4S recent complicity in torture at the Mangaung correctional centre in its decision.
The "Trauma Centre" was founded 20 years ago in 1993 by the well-known clergyman, Father Michael Lapsley (who, due to a letter bomb sent by Apartheid South Africa, lost both his hands and the sight in one of his eyes). The Trauma Centre played a crucial role in South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and is arguably one of the most well known human rights trauma organisations in the country. The Trauma Centre is backed by eminent patrons includingArchbishop Desmond Tutu; wife of Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel; former South African Judge, Justice Richard Goldstone; Anglican bishop and a former Robben Island prisoner, Njongonkulu Ndungane; Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs and Director at Standard Bank, Fred Phaswana; and anti-apartheid struggle icon, Ahmed Kathrada.
Welcoming the decision by The Trauma Centre, Kwara Kekana of BDS South Africa commented: "That a South African organisation with such a history and importance as the Trauma Centre has taken the principled decision to terminate relations with G4S due to the company's complicity in Israeli prisons and human rights abuses should set an example and precedent for all South African organisations, businesses, universities and other entities that have contracts with G4S. We are calling on, in particular, the Airports Company of South Africa, the South African Post Office, and the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch --who all have contracts with G4S-- to immediately end their relations with the company."
G4S, the world largest security company, has been the target of several successful international boycott actions and campaigns in recent years due to its complicity in Israel's illegal detentions and torture of Palestinian political prisoners. The termination by The Trauma Centre is the first South African victory for the Palestinian BDS/boycott of G4S campaign.
INTERNATIONAL BOYCOTT CAMPAIGN AGAINST G4S
In a significant victory from earlier this month the University of Bergen in Norway decided not to award its security contract to G4S even though the company presented the lowest priced offer in the security tender. The Norwegian university added an estimated loss of 2,5 million NOK (4,1 million rands) related to potential reputational damage the University would suffer if they chose to award their security contract to G4S due to the involvement of G4S in Israel's illegal detention facilities, torture centres and prisons.
Last month in October the Norwegian trade union, Industri Energi, terminated its contract with G4S as “an act of solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people.” This was followed in the UK, by the East London Teachers Association (ELTA) which passed a motion condemning G4S’s complicity in Israel’s prison system, "unlawful detention and torture [of Palestinians]" which it termed as "profoundly unethical". The University of Oslo, Dundee University Student Union, the UK energy company Good Energy, several businesses, various human rights organizations and the European Union itself have all recently also cut ties with G4S due to the company's complicity in Israel's illegal settlements, detention of Palestinians and torture of Palestinian political prisoners.
ABOUT G4S AND ISRAELI PRISONS
In 2007 G4S was contracted to provide and maintain Israeli prisons, torture centres and detention facilities. Although initially claiming that it intends to terminate its Israeli contracts, G4S still operates in Israel and with the Israeli regime. G4S also provides equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints and Israel's illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank (click here to download the United Nations Special Rapporteur report with details of G4S and its illegal activities in Israel [Pages 15 & 16]). Due to this Israeli involvement, in 2012, Palestinian prisoners and prisoner support organisations called for an international boycott of G4S as part of the global Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.
Over 750 000 Palestinians (roughly 40% of Palestinian men) have been imprisoned by Israel at one point in time. About 100 000 Palestinians have been held by Israel in "administrative detention" (the equivalent of Apartheid South Africa's "Detention without trial"). Similar to the experience of Black families under Apartheid, almost every Palestinian family has been affected by the Israeli imprisonment of a relative.
In the last 11 years alone, more than 7500 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention facilities (including being held in solitary confinement) with Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, being the youngest Palestinian child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers. Currently, there are over 5000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel; 134 of them are being held under Israel's "administrative detention" (Apartheid South Africa's "Detention Without Trial") and 195 of them are children. Last month, on the 27th of October, BDS South Africa was part of a Palestinian political prisoner campaign launch that took place at South Africa's historic Robben Island with Ahmed Kathrada and others.
Kwara Kekana noted that: "This is the first South African BDS/boycott victory against G4S since the Robben Island Palestinian political prisoner launch. Given the role during the anti-apartheid struggle of Cowley House (where The Trauma Centre is currently housed) which served as a shelter for families visiting Robben Island detainees makes this victory all the more important."