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’ involvement in the Israeli prison system, particularly in relation to child prisoners, 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.
According to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), at the end of March 2015 there were 5,591 Palestinian detainees and prisoners held in Israeli prisons, including 182 children. The imprisonment of Palestinians detainees and prisoners in IPS facilities in the occupied West Bank and Israel are central to LPHR’s human rights complaint under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines). Credible sources indicate systemic human rights violations against Palestinian detainees and prisoners in IPS facilities, contrary to protections under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, with a particularly detrimental effect on children. Palestinian children are among those who encounter systemic human rights violations.
LPHR asserted in its human rights complaint that G4S contributes to the adverse impacts on these Palestinian detainees and prisoners human rights, by providing a range of control and monitoring services (including systems to control an entire prison facility) to IPS facilities in Israel and Ofer prison in the West Bank, and that it fails to address such adverse impacts as required. LPHR further submitted in its human rights complaint that G4S is directly linked to adverse human rights impacts by their business relationship with the IPS, and have failed to seek ways to prevent or mitigate such adverse impacts as required.
The relationship between G4S and IPS Facilities
In July 2007, the technological department of G4S Israel signed a contract with the Israel Prison Authority (IPA) – now (IPS) – to provide security systems for major IPA facilities. G4S Israel contracted to establish these systems for all IPS prisons, in order to create technological uniformity across all facilities.
In particular, G4S declared that they provided security systems for:
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OPT (West Bank)
Jerusalem (“Russian Compound”)
A G4S spokesman, Shmuel Shiprut, sales and marketing manager in G4S Technologies, reportedly stated at the time of succeeding in the tender to provide services:
“The management of the IPS project requires working with a major and classified body, which requires a level of skills and professionalism, which only major companies with high technological abilities in running sensitive security alignments, like Hashmira protection technologies, can provide. G4S Technologies will provide the IPS with an overall wide response in the control, security, safety field and in the field of managing a smart sterile arrangement, that will assist the preservation of a high level of security and compartmentalization.”
Who Profits, an Israeli organisation reporting on corporate complicity in human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza, has reported that:
“In these prisons [G4S] installed computerized control and monitoring systems, entrance and visitation control systems, control rooms with touch screens, internal and external CCTV monitoring and recording systems and optic fibre communication lines. [G4S] also installed fire and smoke detection systems and metal detector gates in these prisons. In the Ofer prison [G4S] also installed a central command room from which the entire facility can be controlled and a circumferential monitoring system on the prison walls.”
G4S has confirmed1 that its services to checkpoints and crossing in the OPT include: “Contracts to install and maintain security systems – such as closed circuit television (CCTV), access control systems and public address systems – within many IPS managed prisons, including the Ofer prison.”
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 above-mentioned IPS facilities specifically identified within LPHR’s complaint.
For further information, see: paragraphs 19-22 of LPHR’s complaint; and paragraph 28 of the Final Statement.
International Human Rights Law
LPHR’s complaint references credible sources cumulatively evidencing the systemic maltreatment of Palestinian detainees and prisoners, some of which is clearly unlawful. Palestinian detainees and prisoners, including children, have experienced:
Beating, stripping, blindfolding, painful binding of wrists, transport face-down in military vehicles, physical and verbal abuse. This treatment may amount to cruel and unusual punishment or torture, and is unlawful;
Interrogation under degrading and inhuman conditions sometimes amounting to torture. The unlawful use of solitary confinement, including for children, has been reported;
Administrative detention (detention without charge or trial, in some cases for years), with an associated very high risk of human rights abuse, is used excessively for Palestinian detainees in IPS Facilities.
For further information, see paragraph 33 of LPHR’s complaint.
Palestinian children are among those affected by these serious human rights violations. UNICEF, Military Court Watch and an independent delegation of senior British lawyers funded by the UK Government have reported how Palestinian children are detained on remand, often in primitive conditions, with extremely restricted access to family and with limited or no access to education. The delegation of senior British lawyers concluded that Israel’s treatment of Palestinian child detainees and prisoners in their custody breaches several international human rights norms, including the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child, and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
LPHR’s complaint reproduced affidavits taken from Palestinian children who were subjected to serious human rights violations within IPS facilities. Descriptions of the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and of being held in solitary confinement, are recurrent themes of their signed witness statements.
For further information, see paragraph 33 of LPHR’s complaint and its bundle of witness statements.
International Humanitarian Law
The forcible transfer of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territory for incarceration in IPS facilities within Israel is unlawful under Article 76 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 76 states that: ‘Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein’ whilst Article 147 states that forcible transfer of this kind constitutes a grave breach.
In LPHR’s view, the fact that unlawful forcible transfer of Palestinians detainees has occurred since 1967, that it affects around 7,000 Palestinians a year, and that it is practised by the IPS (which is “the national detention authority of Israel” under the Israeli Minister of Public Security) shows it to be a clear policy of the Israeli government. The unlawfulness of the ‘policy’ has been confirmed by the UK Foreign Office.
This violation makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for family visits to take place due to freedom of movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities.
The UK National Contact Point Final Statement
In relation to Israeli Prison Service facilities, the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) concluded “information offered to the UK NCP establishes that some aspects of operations in prisons where G4S provides equipment are considered by international authorities and the UK government to be contrary to international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”3 The UK NCP highlights the British Foreign Office’s concern in relation to administrative detention and detention of children. The UK NCP concludes that “the information reviewed establishes that there are adverse human rights impacts associated with the facilities and locations referred to in the complaint.”4
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 in IPS facilities at which G4S has installed and maintained security systems 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 abuses taking place in IPS facilities. 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.
Dearbhla Katharine Minogue, Tareq Shrourou, Claire Jeffery
1Paragraph 28 of the NCP’s Final Statement
3Paragraph 39, NCP Final Statement
4Paragraph 41, NCP Final Statement