UK business watchdog highlights G4S’ continued breach of human rights obligations


Samidoun is republishing the following statement from London-based Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights on the new statement of the UK National Contact Point – the government-funded corporate watchdog – on G4S’ human rights breaches. We urge the boycott of G4S to continue and grow; in particular, public institutions, universities, airports, United Nations institutions, and other public services and bodies must be urged to end their contracts with this human rights violating corporation. 

UK watchdog criticises G4S for misleading public over breach of human rights obligations towards Palestinians and finds it has not implemented key recommendations‏

London, 07 July 2016 – In an important and critical statement published today, a UK government-funded business watchdog has found the British multinational company, G4S PLC:

  • Continues to be in breach of fundamental human rights obligations through its operations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory;

  • Has failed to implement two of the business watchdog’s three recommendations to remedy the company’s breach of human rights obligations;

  • Issued a ‘selective’ and ‘misleading’ public response last year to the business watchdog’s findings, as consistently highlighted by legal charity, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR); and

  • Failed to ‘signal a serious intention’ to address the business watchdog’s findings and recommendations, a fact which the watchdog finds ‘disappointing’.

In June 2015, the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) (which is funded by the UK Government to independently investigate complaints against multinational companies for alleged breach of human rights and other obligations) significantly found G4S to be in breach of its obligations to ‘respect human rights’ and to ‘prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to its business operations’ in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

This followed the UK NCP’s investigation of LPHR’s comprehensive ‘business and human rights’ complaint concerning services provided by G4S to Israeli military checkpoints and prisons that infringe the human rights of Palestinians.

In its first statement since publishing its findings last year, the UK NCP critically finds today that G4S has not implemented the two recommendations made to the Company which “were specific to the issues examined in the [LPHR’s] complaint” (see notes to editor).

The UK NCP concludes that G4S remains in breach of its human rights obligations, stating: “Until G4S publicly communicates the actions it is taking to address the impacts it is linked to by the contracts…the UK NCP considers that its actions are not consistent with its obligation…to address [human rights] impacts it is linked to by a business relationship.”

Since June 2015, LPHR has consistently stated that G4S misrepresented the UK NCP’s findings of breach (see notes to editor) and urged the Company to correct its selective and apparently misleading public statements on the UK NCP’s findings. In its statement today, the UK NCP acknowledges LPHR’s observations and states it “separately noted the G4S response at that time, and considered that it referred to the [UK NCP’s] Final Statement in a selective way that was misleading.”

The UK business watchdog further expresses that it is “disappointing” that G4S did not take the opportunity in its public response to “signal the seriousness of its intention” to address the UK NCP’s findings and recommendations.

The issue of misrepresentation was one of the issues of concern detailed in an LPHR letter privately sent to G4S in October 2015 which contained 16 key questions for the Company. G4S has failed to provide a reply despite it being re-sent in January and March this year, which is a point noted by the UK NCP in its statement today. LPHR published the letter on its and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s website in May 2016.

Following today’s UK NCP statement, LPHR now publicly urges G4S:

  1. To definitively commit to withdrawing from all of its relevant contracts with Israeli state agencies immediately, or as soon as practicable, so that it finally ends its unacceptable ongoing violation of human rights obligations towards Palestinians;

  2. To provide a specific date by which this full withdrawal will have occurred, and to publicly report to all stakeholders on that date whether full withdrawal has occurred; and

  3. To finally acknowledge the full extent of the UK NCP’s adverse findings of breach of human rights obligations made against the Company.

LPHR does not consider these issues to be adequately addressed by G4S’ recent statements – made subsequent to the UK NCP’s adverse findings against the Company – that it plans to sell G4S Israel. As far back as March 2011, G4S publicly stated its intention to ‘exit as soon as possible a number of contracts which involve the servicing of security equipment at the barrier checkpoints, prisons and police stations in the West Bank’. But despite repetition of similar public statements, this appears not to have substantively materialised.

Until LPHR sees that concrete, and irreversible, steps have been taken in this regard, it will continue to urge that G4S withdraw from these contracts in accordance with its fundamental business and human rights obligations.

Tareq Shrourou, Director of LPHR, said:

The striking criticism of G4S by the UK’s business watchdog for misleading the public on a significant business and human rights issue is a decisive moment for upholding the importance of companies’ human rights obligations. LPHR has persistently highlighted G4S’ misleading statements and apparent failure to address the UK NCP’s adverse findings over the last year, but the Company has disturbingly provided either a woefully inadequate and misleading public response or no response at all.

G4S must now demonstrate the responsible conduct required from a multinational company by fully acknowledging the extent of the adverse findings made by the UK NCP and by urgently ending its breach of fundamental business and human rights obligations.

LPHR has set out, directly to G4S, a clear business and human rights analysis which clarifies that the only effective action the Company can take to end its unacceptable ongoing involvement in Israel’s systemic and sustained human rights mistreatment of Palestinians, is to expeditiously and responsibly withdraw fully from its relevant contracts with Israeli state agencies.

This required action is long overdue, and we urge in the interests of accountability and transparency that full withdrawal takes place immediately, or as soon as practicable, with a specific date provided for when it will be completed.”