Today, the UK National Contact Point reached its conclusions on LPHR’s comprehensive human rights complaint against G4S PLC under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and issued its findings in a ‘Final Statement’. In brief, the UK National Contact Point has found G4S to be in violation of three human rights obligations under the OECD Guidelines in relation to its involvement with Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians. LPHR’s reaction to the UK National Contact Point’s findings can be read in our public statement and accompanying commentary. Below is a Q&A on LPHR’s human rights complaint against G4S.
1. What is LPHR’s complaint about G4S and where was it submitted?
In November 2013, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) submitted a comprehensive human rights complaint against G4S to a UK government maintained body called the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP).
The complaint alleged that some of G4S’ operations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (the OPT) are in violation of certain human rights provisions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (the OECD Guidelines), particularly in relation to G4S’ provision of equipment and services at Israeli prisons, detention centres, and military checkpoints. A copy of LPHR’s complaint is available here.
Each government that adheres to the OECD Guidelines is required to establish a government maintained body, a National Contact Point, to consider complaints under the Guidelines. National Contact Points are not part of the OECD and have no wider responsibilities for OECD functions. The UK NCP, to which LPHR submitted its complaint, is staffed by a small team of officials based in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and operates independently of BIS Ministers in its consideration of complaints.
For further information, see our blog on the OECD Guidelines complaints mechanism and the UK NCP here.
2. Who are Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights?
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) is a legal charity in the UK that works to protect and promote Palestinian human rights. The charity pursues its goals through a combination of: legal advice and support; human rights and international law education and advocacy; research, monitoring and urgent actions on rights violations; public policy and lobbying; and utilising international human rights complaint mechanisms of domestic and international institutions. It coordinates its work with human rights organisations in the region where possible.
3. What is the occupied Palestinian territory?
International humanitarian law and international human rights law is recognised by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to apply to Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the OPT.
For further information, see the ICJ’s Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
4. What is G4S PLC?
G4S PLC (G4S) is an international security solutions group, formed through the merger of the UK security company Securicor and the security business of the Danish company Group 4 Falck. G4S was incorporated in 2003 as a UK public limited company, and it is currently listed on the FTSE 100 of the London Stock Exchange. It describes itself as the world’s leading security company and in 2014 had a total revenue of £6.8 billion. Its Head Office and Executive Committee is based in Crawley, United Kingdom.
5. What is G4S Israel?
In 2002, Group 4 Falck purchased 50 percent of Hashmira Technologies, then Israel’s largest security services company. By 2007, G4S PLC was the ultimate owner of 91 percent of the company1. In 2012, the G4S annual report recorded that the group owned 92 percent of the company, now named G4S Secure Solutions (Israel) Limited and G4S Security Technologies (Israel) Limited. In 2014, the G4S annual report stated that it owned 92 per cent of G4S Secure Solutions (Israel) Limited and 100 per cent of G4S Security Technologies (Israel) Limited2.
G4S annual reports from 2004 to 2014 record that the directors of G4S PLC considered that Hashmira (and later G4S Secure Solutions (Israel) Ltd and G4S Security Technologies (Israel) Ltd) were “significant investments” that “significantly affected the group’s results and net assets during the year”.
For further information, see paragraph 6 of the UK NCP’s Final Statement.
6. What is G4S’ policy on human rights?
In April 2013, G4S launched a human rights policy. Its opening paragraph states: “G4S is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities on human rights in all of its companies around the world by applying the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011) across all of our businesses.”
In 2014, it published a summary of a Human Rights Report and a Legal Opinion (the ‘Summary’) which considered whether G4S’ business activities in Israel were in breach of international law and, specifically, whether G4S could be found complicit in war crimes. Among the provisions and instruments considered in the Summary is the OECD Guidelines. However, whilst the Summary does consider G4S’ due diligence obligations (Paragraph 5, Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines), it does not appear to consider whether G4S’ business actions have an adverse impact on human rights (Paragraphs 2 and 3, Chapter IV of the Guidelines). Paragraph 3, Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines is the material paragraph that the UK NCP considers to be engaged in LPHR’s complaint.
For further information, see our blog on the OECD Guidelines Complaints Mechanism and the UK NCP here.
7. What services does G4S in Israel provide?
G4S has confirmed3 that its services in Israel and the OPT include:
a) 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; and
b) Contracts to install and maintain security systems – such as closed circuit television (CCTV), access control systems and public address systems – within many Israeli Prison Service managed prisons, including the Ofer prison in the West Bank.
G4S has not confirmed all the specific locations of equipment and services that it provides. However, it has not disputed4 that its contracts may cover the following checkpoints, crossings, prisons and detention facilities 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)
OPT (West Bank)
Jerusalem (“Russian Compound”)
For further information, see: paragraph 15-23 of LPHR’s complaint; and paragraph 28 of the UK NCP Final Statement.
8. What is the ‘Wall’ and its ‘Associated Regime’?
Israel has, since June 2002, constructed a wall, in part along the Armistice Line of 1949 (the “Green Line”), but primarily within the occupied West Bank. Some 85% of the Wall’s route runs inside the West Bank. If completed as planned, the Wall will isolate 9.4% of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from the rest of the West Bank. The Wall comprises fences, ditches, concrete, razor wire, checkpoints, ‘trace’ and patrol roads and a buffer zone. As of July 2013, the Wall’s total length was approximately 712km. Approximately 62% of the Wall’s approved route is complete and a further 10% is under construction.
The Wall is reinforced and sustained by an ‘Associated Regime’ of physical, legal and administrative obstacles. They include the use of checkpoints (see question 10 below) along the length of the Wall, as well as the use of gates, a permit system, ID cards and property destruction and confiscation. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has acknowledged that “[c]ombined, these restrictions are compounding the fragmentation of the OPT, impacting on a range of rights of the Palestinian people, and increasing the humanitarian vulnerability of large segments of the Palestinian population.”
9. What is the legal status of the Wall and its Associated Regime?
On 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an Advisory Opinion concerning the legal aspects of Israel’s construction of the Wall. The Advisory Opinion significantly held that the construction of the Wall and its Associated Regime violate international law. It further found that Israel is under an obligation to cease construction of the Wall, and dismantle all parts of the Wall that have been constructed. Israel has maintained the “illegal situation” of the Wall’s construction and the operation of its associated regime despite this clear legal ruling.
For further information, see: our 2014 blog marking ten years since the ICJ’s Advisory Opinion; and UN OCHA’s interactive barrier portal.
10. What are the ‘checkpoints’?
Israeli military checkpoints are located within the West Bank and at Gaza crossings (including Erez Crossing). As of 2013, there were 59 permanent military checkpoints and 25 partial checkpoints (which are staffed on an ad hoc basis) in the West Bank, in addition to a monthly average of 243 ‘flying’ checkpoints which are deployed at various times.
Of the 59 permanent military checkpoints, 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 which 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.
UN OCHA has recently stated: “Checkpoints, in conjunction with other physical obstacles and permit requirements, form part of a comprehensive system used by the Israeli authorities, citing security concerns, to control Palestinian movement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem”.
11. What is the Erez Crossing?
The Erez Crossing is located between Israel and Gaza on the northern border of the Gaza Strip and is one of three currently functioning crossings between Gaza and Israel. It serves as the only point of passage for people travelling between the Gaza Strip and Israel, as well as those seeking to reach other destinations via Israel, such as the West Bank or third countries. Israel has significantly limited this sole point of passage for people travelling between the Gaza Strip and Israel. UN OCHA stated that 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.”
The limited access through Erez Crossing is symptomatic of the widespread restrictions on freedom of movement for persons, goods and materials in and out of Gaza caused by Israel’s illegal closure policy. The UN Secretary-General has stated: “…the blockade and related restrictions [in Gaza] target and impose hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed. As such, these measures contravene article 33 of the [Fourth Geneva Convention]…prohibiting collective penalties.”
For further information on the impact of Erez Crossing, see: Question 12 below; LPHR’s blog on G4S and Israel’s military checkpoints here; Appendix II of LPHR’s complaint here; and UNOCHA’s 2014 report ‘Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2013‘.
12. 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. The substantial restrictions on freedom of movement additionally 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.
UN OCHA has stated: “Israel restricts Palestinian movement within the OPT by a combination of physical obstacles, including checkpoints and roadblocks; and by bureaucratic constraints, such as permits and by the designation of areas as closed or restricted. This multi-layered system impacts the flow of persons and goods to and from the Gaza Strip; between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; and within the West Bank…Combined, these restrictions are compounding the fragmentation of the OPT, impacting on a range of rights of the Palestinian people, and increasing the humanitarian vulnerability of large segments of the Palestinian population”.
For further information on rights violations, please see LPHR’s blog on G4S and Israel’s military checkpoints here; paragraph 26 of LPHR’s complaint; and UNOCHA’s 2014 report ‘Fragmented Lives: Humanitarian Overview 2013‘.
13. What rights violations do the prison and detention facilities in Israel raise?
Credible sources have evidenced the maltreatment of Palestinian detainees and prisoners being held by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) in the West Bank and Israel. Documented abuses include beating, stripping, blindfolding, interrogation under degrading and inhuman conditions, and detention without trial. The particular impact on child detainees and prisoners has been noted by UNICEF and Military Court Watch, among others. In addition, the documented forcible transfer of Palestinians from OPT for incarceration in IPS facilities in Israel is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The following IPS facilities are among those facilities that LPHR cites in its complaint as being served by G4S:
|Type of site||Name||Location|
OPT (West Bank)
Jerusalem (“Russian Compound”)
For more information, see our detailed blog on G4S and the Israeli Prison Service here; and paragraphs 25 and 38(a) of LPHR’s complaint.
Nusrat Uddin, Claire Jeffery, Tareq Shrourou
3 Paragraph 28 of the NCP’s Final Statement