By Tom Anderson & Therezia Cooper
As readers of Corporate Occupation will be aware, we have been covering the involvement of the British-Danish company G4S in the Israeli prison system frequently during the last year. G4S provides services to all Israeli prisons, including facilities inside the West Bank. The company has come under heavy criticism for its occupation profiteering from many quarters and its prison contracts have come under especially heavy fire, as their services are facilitating Israel’s breaches of international law.
Israel frequently transports Palestinian political prisoners from the West Bank to prisons inside Israel in direct breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Once there, many are kept in ‘administrative detention’, an arbitrary detention option where detainees can be held without charge for an unspecified length of time -sometime up to several years. Israel also detains children.
As our previous research has shown, mistreatment of prisoners held by Israel is common. In interviews with prisoners, they have told us of the despair of being held in administrative detention with no end in sight, of weeks long interrogations and threats, sleep deprivation and lack of family visits (interviews are all available in our prison article archive).
In one of the interviews we carried out, a former prisoner speaking under the name Talib Hasan asked us to “Please tell the company [G4S] to come and see the prisons with their eyes to see exactly what they are supporting.” When G4S first came under scrutiny for its activities in the West Bank, the company sent Professor Hjalte Rasmussen to Israel and the West Bank to provide a legal opinion on its operations there. As Adri Nieuwhof has reported, the advice he came back with, that “G4S did not violate any national or international law”, has been seen as deeply flawed by campaigners. During his three day trip Rasmussen did not visit a any Israeli prisons. We decided that, after talking to numerous ex-prisoners, we would attempt to see the prisons from the inside.
With the help of the prisoner support and human rights organisation Addameer, we sent in a request to visit Ofer, Ktziot, Damon, Megido, Kishon or Migrash Harusim prison and to speak to a prison representative about the conditions in these facilities, all which have contracts with G4S. This request was refused, with the response stating that
“…prisons are closed domains which are not open to all comers, and entry to them is only allowed to authorized agents as specified, and all according to the law…For example, the law regulates the entrance of “official visitors” to detention facilities for the specified ends, including checking the detention condition, caring for the needs of prisoners etc”.
This result was of course expected. It is clear that Israel want to control who sees their prisons from the inside and what they see. According to Addameer lawyer Sahar Francis, EU politicians have been refused visits to the prisons and even UK lawyers, who were representing some prisoners in other cases in the UK, were refused entry and unable to see their clients. Prisoners are often held incommunicado during their initial interrogation, and if when they are not allowed to see a lawyer they are also denied a Red Cross representative -presumably one of the ‘official visitors’ who are allowed access.
Whilst it is understandable that Israeli Government institutions and companies such as SodaStream will want to refuse Corporate Watch access to their facilities, it is clear that service providers such as G4S do not face the same restrictions. The company is fully aware of what its operations in Israel entail, and it should therefore continue to be one of the primary targets for BDS action.
Providing services to Israeli prisons is only one of the ways in which G4S is profiting from the occupation. for the full case against the company, read Who Profit’s case study The Case of G4S: Private Security Companies and the Israeli Occupation.
There is also a Corporate Watch G4S company profile, which is not specific to the its involvement in Palestine, but highlights the growing number of reasons to campaign against the company.
Demo in support of defendants in G4S rooftop occupation trial
Join the demo outside Horsham magistrates on Friday 16 August in support of the two people who occupied the roof of G4S’ offices last July, during the Palestinian hunger strikes. For more information see http://www.boycottisraelnetwork.net/?p=2456