A UN body that has been facing pressure to end its links with security company G4S over its role in Israeli human rights abuses has announced that it no longer has contracts with the company.
G4S has been providing services to UNHCR in Jordan but a spokesperson told a reporter last Monday that the body does not have any contracts with the firm.
The announcement was made following a wave of protests online and at UN offices across 5 major cities over the weekend calling on the UN to end all of its contracts $22m worth of contracts with G4S.
G4S is the target of an international campaign over its role in Israeli prisons and check points and the fact it helps to run an Israeli police academy.
Investigations in September 2014 found G4S guards to be working at UNHCR buildings in Amman and at Syrian refugee camps in Zaatari and Azraq, leading to the start of BDS campaigning on the issue. UN documents show that UNHCR in Jordan had contracts with G4S worth $1.7m in 2014.
Sources familiar with the matter have told campaigners that UNHCR started moving security contracts from G4S to a local company earlier this year.
Other UN bodies including UNICEF, the UNDP and UNOPS still have contracts with the company. More than 200 organisations have called on the UN to bar the organisation from having contracts doing so violates the UN’s procurement code of conduct.
The #UNdropG4S campaign has set up a web page that makes it easy for people to write to the UN to voice their concerns and are urging people to join a Thunderclap social media action.
Yazeed Halaseh, member of the Jordan BDS group who campaign against G4S in Jordan, said:
“We welcome the announcement of UNHCR in Jordan that it is no longer hiring G4S. G4S is at the heart of Israel’s use of mass incarceration to repress Palestinian opposition to its military occupation and settler colonialism. We hope that the UN will listen to the thousands of people who are taking action and will end all of its contracts with G4S.”
Reverend Don Wagner, Friends of Sabeel North America, who began investigating the relationship between G4S and the UN in 2014, said:
“We were shocked to discover G4S agents ushering refugees into the UNHCR Amman office in September of 2014. News that this office no longer holds contracts with G4S is refreshing. It builds momentum for the UN as a whole to follow suit and to uphold human rights and human dignity everywhere.”
Rafat Sub Laban from Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer, who started lobbying the UN on its contracts with G4S in April, said:
“Recent weeks have seen a wave of mass arrests by Israeli occupation forces aimed at repressing protests and imposing control and collective punishment on Palestinians in the occupied territory. Since the beginning of October, Israeli occupation forces arrested over 2,050 Palestinians including at least 350 children and over 210 Palestinians including 4 minors who were placed under administrative detention without charge or trial. Many of those who were arrested remain detained by Israel.”
“These political prisoners are held in prisons and interrogation centres that G4S helps Israel to run, making G4S complicit in Israel’s torture, ill-treatment and administrative detention without charge or trial of Palestinians.
“Addameer welcomes this news from UNHCR in Jordan and hopes the UN will now terminate all its contracts with G4S and to distance itself from complicity in human rights violations.”
In June 2014, the Gates Foundation divested the whole of its $170m holding in the company as a result of an international campaign.
The US Methodist Church, the largest protestant church in the US, divested from G4S after coalition campaigning brought the issue to a vote.
Universities in Oslo and Bergen refused to give G4S contracts over its role in Israel’s prison system following student campaigns. In the UK, at least 5 student unions have voted to cancel contracts with G4S, and students successfully pressured 2 other universities not to renew contracts with the company. Major charities in South Africa, the Netherlands and elsewhere terminated contracts with G4S
Facing mounting international pressure, G4S announced in 2014 that G4S “did not expect to renew” its contract with the Israeli Prison Service when it expires in 2017, and it has also said it will end some aspects of its involvement in illegal Israeli settlements. BDS activists have said they will continue their campaign until G4S ends all aspects of its support for Israeli violations of international law.