22nd Mar 2018

G4S contract with EU under fire over Israel

  • G4S employs around 618,000 people (Photo:

G4S, one of the world's largest private security firms, could see its five-year contract with EU institutions scrapped following pressure from several dozen MEPs.

The multi-billion euro Anglo-Danish company was awarded a contract in 2011 to guard and provide surveillance and access-control services for EU buildings in Brussels.

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But some 38 euro-deputies from all the big political groups now oppose renewing the contract in the lead up to a new tender next year.

On Wednesday (2 December), they sent a letter to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker with the EU's foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini in copy.

"By helping Israel to run five prisons and 'interrogation centres', G4S Israel participates in Israel’s use of torture and mass incarceration of more than 6,000 Palestinians," notes the letter.

It says the European Commission and its foreign policy branch, the European External Action Service, should end "contractual relations with a firm that is engaged in providing support for activities that constitute war crimes."

One of the signatories, Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes, told this website G4S also helps protect ultra-orthodox Israeli settlers on Palestinian territory.

"The whole idea is that indeed G4S, as a company, provides services whereby it helps the Israeli government to do illegal things and things that violate international law."

Staes said the European Parliament had ended its contract with G4S in 2011 following a similar letter of complaint to the parliament president at the time.

"There is no link any more with G4S," he said of the European Parliament.

G4S Israel signed a contract in 2007 with the Israel Prison Authority (IPA) to provide security systems for major IPA facilities.

Who Profits from the Occupation, an Israeli-based research centre, says many are Palestinian political prisoners whose basic rights are routinely violated.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an NGO, these facilities include the Ofer Prison (West Bank), Ketziot, Megiddo and Damon (Israel), and Kishon (also known as Al Jalame), and Jerusalem detention facilities (Israel).

The NGO says G4S Israel is also providing equipment and maintenance services to Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank, notably at the Qalandia, Bethlehem and Irtah checkpoints in the Israeli wall.

The issue is particularly sensitive given a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the wall and Israel’s settlement policy.

G4S and 'misinformation'

Nigel Fairbrass, global director of media at G4S in London, disputed the remarks made by the MEPs about the company.

He said the firm provides servicing and maintenance of baggage scanning equipment and metal detectors used at checkpoints, including a small number of checkpoints along the separation barrier.

It also provides installation and maintenance of electronic security systems, such as closed circuit television (CCTV), access control systems and public address systems within a number of Israeli prisons.

"We don't operate the equipment, all we do is supply it and maintain it," he said.

"The suggestion that we run prisons or that our staff come into contact with prisoners or with people travelling through check points is completely erroneous."

G4S, for their part, is sending a separate letter to Juncker.

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