After pressure from Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) activists, several Danish clients have terminated contracts with British-Danish security company G4S for the company’s role in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Meanwhile, the UK Home Affairs Committee last week published a damning report about the failure of G4S to deliver on a contract to secure the London Olympics. The committee recommends the government “establish a register of high-risk companies that have failed in the delivery of public services.” Such blacklisting will have serious consequences for G4S, a major service provider to British government bodies.
After sustained media attention on G4S’s role in the Israeli occupation, several Danish charities and a bank have decided to end security service contracts with the company. The latest such BDS success dates from two months ago, when Danish Merkur Bank decided to terminate its contract with G4S. Spokesperson Karl Johnsen told me that the bank had cancelled the contract “because of G4S’s involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” Merkur Bank is an ethical bank committed to social justice.
On 18 July, Henrik Stubkjær, general director of Danish Church Aid (DCA) told Danish newspaper Berlingske Business that his organization had not renewed its contract with G4S. DCA had engaged with G4S in a dialogue about its activities in the West Bank. But DCA was unhappy at G4S for its continuing activity in Israeli settlements there.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International Denmark terminated its contract with G4S, after initially trying to influence their policies. “We do not want to work with G4S because the company’s global activities do not live up to Amnesty International’s requirements for corporate action in relation to human rights,” commented Amnesty secretary Lars Normann Jørgensen to Berlingske Business (translated from Danish).
The same article mentions that the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) also ended its contract with G4S. Pat Nissen, RCT’s project manager for the Middle East said in November 2010 that “G4S as a company is helping to facilitate torture.”
Earlier this month, Palestine solidarity activists in Denmark took to the streets to campaign against G4S for its role in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As seen in this video, Boykot G4S Denmark, a network of solidarity groups and individuals, distributed stickers and pamphlets with information about G4S activities in the West Bank and ideas for taking action.
In a creative action, trade unionists from the scaffolding industry joined activists to transform G4S headquarters into a prison, locking up the staff in their offices. Two activists portraying Palestinian political prisoners under administrative detention were on the scene and banners read “G4S protects Israeli prisons of torture.”
In an open letter that was sent to all 100 municipalities in Denmark, Boykot G4S Denmark calls on local authorities to do no business with G4S.
The UK parliament’s Home Affairs Committee, meanwhile, investigated Olympics security and concludes in its damning report: “The blame for G4S’s failure to deliver on its contract rests firmly and solely with the company. All our witnesses, including those from G4S, were in agreement on this point,” concludes the committee. The committee is tasked to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Home Office, a ministerial department of the government. In a press release, committee chair Keith Vaz calls G4S’s performance “a fiasco.” The data the company provided to the Olympic Security Board was at best unreliable, at worst downright misleading. 24 hours before they admitted their failure, [G4S chief executive] Nick Buckles met with the Home Secretary and did not bother to inform her that they were unable to deliver on their contract, even though he knew about the shortfall a week before.”
The committee recommends the government establish a register of high-risk providers, who have a track-record of failure in the delivery of public services. The government should not be in the business of rewarding failure with taxpayers’ money. As private sector providers play an increasingly important role in the delivery of police and criminal justice services, it is vital that those commissioning services look at the track-records of prospective providers.
G4S’s London Olympics fiasco comes on top of severe criticism for the company’s operations in the occupied Palestinian territories and in prisons and detention centers in Israel. It should be sufficient to convince governments, local authorities, state institutions and other public contractors not to do business with G4S.
This piece was first published on Adri Nieuwhof’s blog and Electronic Intifada on September 26, 2012.