This blog reviews the UK National Contact Point’s conclusion that G4S has not fulfilled its responsibility under the OECD Guidelines to seek to address adverse human rights impacts associated with its activities in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It looks at how G4S’ provision of services and equipment to checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza has led to this conclusion. For a basic introduction to LPHR’s complaint against G4S, see our Q&A blog here. For more information on the OECD Guidelines and its complaints mechanism, see our blog here.
A fundamental component of LPHR’s human rights complaint against G4S under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) relates to the provision of equipment and services to military checkpoints in the Separation Barrier (the Wall) constructed by Israel predominantly within the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and at the Erez Crossing located at the border between Gaza Strip and Israel.
As recognised by the International Court of Justice in 2004, the Wall was constructed by Israel in breach of its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. The existence and operation of the Wall gravely and without adequate justification infringes the rights of Palestinians residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
The Erez Crossing is a point of passage between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Israel’s closure of Gaza has been condemned as unlawful collective punishment, including by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
LPHR asserted in its human rights complaint that G4S contributes to the adverse human rights impacts experienced by Palestinians at military checkpoints in the OPT, and that it fails to address such impacts as required. The military checkpoints in question are an integral part of the Wall and its associated regime, and their operation depends on the equipment supplied by G4S and the maintenance of such equipment by G4S. LPHR further submitted in its human rights complaint that G4S is directly linked by a business relationship to the adverse human rights impact of the Wall, and have failed to seek ways to prevent or mitigate such adverse impacts as required. The business relationship in question is the contractual relationship with the Israeli government to provide equipment and services at the military checkpoints. Provision of such services permits the administration of the Wall and military checkpoints, which is directly linked to the adverse human rights impacts.
For more information on the Wall, see our Q&A blog on LPHR’s complaint against G4S, here.
The relationship between G4S and Israel’s military checkpoints
G4S has confirmed1 that its services to checkpoints and crossing in the OPT include: “Contracts to service and maintain baggage scanning equipment and metal detectors used at checkpoints, including a small number of checkpoints along the separation barrier/Wall.”
G4S has not confirmed all the specific locations of equipment and services that it provides. However, it has not disputed2 that its contracts may cover the following checkpoints and crossings specifically identified within LPHR’s complaint:
|Type of site||Name||Location|
OPT (West Bank – Wall)
OPT (West Bank – Wall)
Irtah (Sha’ah Efraim)
OPT (West Bank – Wall)
For further information, see: paragraphs 16-17 of LPHR’s complaint; and paragraph 28 of the Final Statement.
Israel’s military checkpoints regime
Since the 1990s, Israel has put in place an extensive network of obstacles substantially restricting Palestinian movement within the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. They include checkpoints, roadblocks and the Wall, accompanied by a restrictive system of permits.
UN OCHA has stated in its latest annual report: “Israel restricts Palestinian movement within the OPT through a combination of physical obstacles, including the Barrier and checkpoints, bureaucratic constraints, such as permit requirements, and the designation of areas as restricted or closed. This multi layered system impacts the flow of persons and goods between the Gaza Strip and the outside world, including the West Bank; into farming and fishing areas within Gaza; and within the West Bank, in particular into East Jerusalem, in areas isolated by the Barrier, ‘firing zones’, the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), and land around or within Israeli settlements. Combined, these restrictions impede access to services and resources, disrupt family and social life, undermine livelihoods and compound the fragmentation of the OPT.”
The former Representative of the Quartet, Tony Blair, stated in his last annual report: “Increasing Palestinian movement and access is vital to improving the daily lives of Palestinians. Movement and access restrictions, both physical and regulatory, hinder economic development in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and affect nearly all aspects of Palestinian life.“
Israel’s military checkpoints located along the Wall
Of the 59 permanent military checkpoints in the West Bank, 35 are part of the Wall. Of these Wall checkpoints, 10 exclusively control access to Palestinian enclaves for Palestinians holding special permits to and from communities isolated by the Wall; some of these checkpoints also allow permit holders’ access to farming land isolated by the Wall, as well as to workplaces within Israeli settlements. A further 21 checkpoints control access into Israel and East Jerusalem for Israelis (mostly commuting settlers); Palestinians holding Jerusalem IDs; and a limited number of other Palestinians holding special permits. In further addition, there are four checkpoints located along the Wall that combine the two categories above.
Qalandia, Bethlehem and Irtah checkpoints are functioning checkpoints in the Wall controlling access for Palestinians that LPHR cites in its complaint as being served by G4S.
The Wall was declared to be unlawful by an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004. Checkpoints located along the Wall form part of its ‘associated regime’, which was also found to be unlawful by the ICJ in its Advisory Opinion.
In its Advisory Opinion in 2004, the International Court of Justice found: “To sum up, the Court, from the material available to it, is not convinced that the specific course Israel has chosen for the wall was necessary to attain its security objectives. The wall, along the route chosen, and its associated régime, gravely infringe a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order. The construction of such a wall accordingly constitutes breaches by Israel of various of its obligations under the applicable international humanitarian law and human rights instruments.”
For more information see: our Q&A blog; our 2014 blog marking ten years since the ICJ’s Advisory Opinion; UN OCHA’s interactive barrier portal; UN OCHA’s 2015 report ‘Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2014’; and the ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
What rights violations do the checkpoints, the Wall and Erez Crossing raise?
Freedom of movement for Palestinians at the military checkpoints/crossings is substantially restricted. Palestinians face major difficulties in travelling between different West Bank cities, accessing their workplaces, farmland, schools and hospitals, and visiting their family relatives. For Palestinians in Gaza, access to Israel through Erez Crossing “is limited to a small number of humanitarian cases, in particular medical patients, and to businessmen and employees of international organisations.” Accordingly, the substantial restrictions on freedom of movement impede Palestinians from exercising a range of associated basic human rights, including the right to health, right to work, right to education, right to an adequate standard of living.
LPHR’s complaint reproduced affidavits taken from Palestinians who were subjected to serious human rights violations at checkpoints. The overarching human rights violation engaged in each of these signed witness statements is an unjustifiable infringement of the right to freedom of movement. The consequences of this freedom of movement violation can be grave. Five cases in the witness statements bundle attached to LPHR’s complaint involved the deaths of Palestinians – two cancer patients, one heart patient, one eight year old boy and one new born baby – due to obstruction of access through checkpoints. The violation of the right to life is the gravest infringement of human rights. Other affidavits describe infringements of the right to health, right to education, right to work and right to adequate standard of living due to obstruction/delays at checkpoints in the West Bank, and infringements of the right to health due to refusal of passage through Erez Crossing for medical care.
For further information, see paragraph 26 of LPHR’s complaint and its bundle of witness statements.
The UK National Contact Point Final Statement
In relation to military checkpoints and the Wall, the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) concluded: “the complainant notes that the context for the abuses alleged is the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that the construction of that part of the separation barrier that is within the West Bank violates international law. The UK NCP notes that the UK government accepts this Advisory Opinion: it is reflected in the FCO’s Overseas Business Risk advice to businesses (see Paragraph 45.) and in FCO Human Rights and Democracy reports (the 2012 report states: “where the barrier is constructed on the Palestinian side of the 1967 border, it is illegal under international law”).”3 In relation to Erez Crossing, the UK NCP concluded: “FCO annual human rights reports note general human rights impacts of the restrictions on movement of goods and people in Gaza, but do not cite any specific concerns about the crossing point.”4 The UK NCP overall concluded that “the information reviewed establishes that there are adverse human rights impacts associated with the facilities and locations referred to in the complaint”5.
Crucially, the UK NCP found that G4S has not fulfilled its responsibility under the OECD Guidelines to seek to address adverse human rights impacts associated with its activities in Israel and the OPT. Preventing or mitigating rights violations at Israeli military checkpoint locations should therefore be central to any follow-up actions taken by G4S and monitored by the UK NCP. It is LPHR’s firm view that G4S should immediately terminate its contracts with the state agencies concerned if G4S cannot use its leverage to prevent or mitigate the violations taking place at Israeli military checkpoint locations where they provide equipment or services. If not, G4S will continue to unacceptably violate its obligations to respect human rights provisions under the OECD Guidelines in relation to Palestinians residing in the OPT.
Tareq Shrourou – Director of LPHR
1Paragraph 28 of the NCP’s Final Statement
3Paragraph 37, UK NCP Final Statement
4Paragraph 38, UK NCP Final Statement
5Paragraph 41, UK NCP Final Statement