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Government trade body finds G4S violating human rights obligations towards Palestinians

Uk Government trade body finds G4S continues to violate human rights obligations through its business operations in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories

Posted on 09 June 2015

British security firm, G4S has been told by a UK Government trade body that it is continuing to violate human rights obligations under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) .

These violations arise from G4S’ business operations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provide guidelines for multinational enterprises for responsible business conduct which governments encourage companies to observe wherever they operate.

Following a complaint by the legal charity Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR), represented by lawyers Leigh Day, the UK National Contact Point (NCP) accepted that further examination was required under the OECD Guidelines in relation to the activities of UK registered G4S PLC and its Israeli subsidiaries, G4S Secure Solutions (Israel) Limited and G4S Security Technologies (Israel) Limited.

Today, the UK National Contact Point (NCP) published the results of their investigation into the complaint. They found significant failures by G4S in its overarching obligations to ‘respect human rights’; as well as the obligation to ‘prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to its business operations' in the region.

The NCP findings arise from G4S' supply, installation and maintenance of equipment at facilities and operations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) that are associated with violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

These include contracts to service and maintain baggage scanning equipment and metal detectors used at military checkpoints, including some located along the unlawful Separation Barrier/Wall; and contracts to install and maintain security systems within Israeli Prison Service facilities.

The NCP accepted LPHR's comprehensive evidence of material Israeli human rights violations at checkpoints and Israeli Prison Service facilities, including: substantial restrictions on Palestinians freedom of movement, with associated adverse impacts on the right to health, education, work and standard of living, caused by Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank.

These include checkpoints located along the unlawful Separation Barrier/Wall; and human rights violations against Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli Prison Service facilities in Israel and the OPT.

They include reports of torture and/or cruel and degrading treatment, solitary confinement and excessive use of administrative detention. Palestinian children are among those documented to have experienced human rights violations.

The detention of children in Israeli Prison Service facilities, during which many allege being subject to torture and/or cruel and degrading treatment, is a particular concern.

The NCP has recommended G4S take the following actions to bring the British company into compliance with its human rights obligations under the OECD Guidelines:

1. Consider how to work with business partners in Israel to address the human rights violations referred to in LPHR's complaint;
2. Communicate to shareholders and business partners in Israel the actions it is taking;
3. Implement a contract approvals process that includes assessment of human rights risks and application of mitigations (as G4S indicated an intention to do when commenting on the NCP’s Final Statement).

Tareq Shrourou, LPHR Director said: “By reason of its business relationship with the Israeli state agencies who violate international law, G4S has been found in breach of its human rights obligations under the OECD Guidelines.

“The reality is that the track record indicates the only effective action G4S can take to prevent all involvement in Israel's serious, systemic and sustained human rights mistreatment of Palestinians is for G4S to end those business relationships with immediate effect.”

Leigh Day solicitors and Tim Cooke-Hurle of Doughty Street Chambers represented LPHR in connection with the complaint.

Shubhaa Srinivasan, partner at Leigh Day said:

“My client welcomes the NCP’s decision. It’s time for G4S to stop hiding behind Israeli State policies and actions which legitimizes violation of Palestinian human rights. The worst thing G4S can do after this finding is to continue with its operations in Israel and the OPT as if it’s ‘business as usual’ with Israeli state/agencies. G4S and other British companies like it must understand it can never be good business to be associated with such grave human rights violations. They must do everything in their power to change the way they conduct business in that part of the world.”