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G4S Fact Sheet

British-Danish G4S is the largest private security company in the world, operating in over 110 countries.1  As detailed below, G4S is complicit with violations of human rights, international law, and the rights of the child and demonstrates by its actions that it does not support or respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights2.

Section 1: Israel/Palestine

  1. Political prisoners, including children

Starting in 2002, G4S began working in Israel through the acquisition of the Hashmira security company and has expanded since then3. Through its subsidiary, G4S Israel, G4S has an ongoing contract with the Israeli Prison Service to provide and maintain security systems at Israeli prisons that hold thousands4 of Palestinian political prisoners both inside Israel and in occupied Palestine’s West Bank5. Palestinian and international human rights organizations have reported widespread human rights abuses inside Israeli prisons6 7.

  • Physical violence and torture of Palestinian prisoners, including child detainees, has been widely documented.8 It is reported that each year 500 – 700 children are detained and tried in Israeli military courts9, 10  with a 99% conviction rate.11   G4S operates the main military court that tries these children.

    According to the 2013 UNICEF report, Israel is the only country that systematically tries children in military courts, “which by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”  UNICEF reports that “many children are arrested in the middle of the night, awakened at their homes by heavily armed soldiers… For some of the children, what follows is a chaotic and frightening scene, in which furniture and windows are sometimes broken … family members are forced to stand outside in their night clothes as the accused child is forcibly removed from the home… Few children or parents are informed as to where the child is being taken, why or for how long….Many children are subjected to ill-treatment during the journey to the interrogation center.  Some endure physical or verbal abuse.”  12

  • Palestinian political prisoners arrested in the West Bank and Gaza are routinely transferred and held in prisons inside Israel,13 a violation of international human rights law.14   Once detained, Palestinian political prisoners, including children, can be held potentially indefinitely, without trial. 15  through a practice called Administrative Detention.16   Israel routinely uses Administrative Detention in violation of the strict parameters established by international law.17 
  • By maintaining security systems at Israel’s prisons, G4S also assists Israel with its use of mass incarceration to deter Palestinian activists from their right to organize against and protest against Israel’s violations of international law.
  • Many Palestinians, including legislators, have been jailed in G4S equipped prisons for engaging in non-violent protests18.  The Israeli government has charged these activists for participating in “illegal demonstrations.”19  For example, in response to arrest of Palestinian activists at the separation wall, Human Rights Watch has said, “The Israeli authorities are effectively banning peaceful expression of political speech by bringing spurious charges against demonstrators, plus detaining children and adults without basic due process protections.”20
  1. Check points

G4S provides equipment and security services to: checkpoints that make up the route of Israel’s Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; private companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including those involved in continued illegal settlement construction21 and Israeli police facilities in other Israeli government buildings in the occupied West Bank. Settlements are a violation of international law which states that the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.  Profiting from the occupation is also illegal. 22   

G4S has also provided equipment to checkpoints that enforce the siege on and blockade of Gaza, that has kept the 1.8 million people in Gaza trapped in what has been called the world’s largest open air prison Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza have been documented by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, among others23 24.

Section 2: G4S human rights violation outside of Palestine/Israel

  • G4S has been involved in violations of labor rights and human rights throughout the world, including in Australia, Africa, Europe 25A B C D. As an example, in 2013, the company was under fire in South Africa over allegations that its staff tortured inmates at the country’s biggest private prison through electrocutions and forced injections.26

    In the United States, G4S is profiting from incarceration through private for profit juvenile detention facilities in which inmates have been abused.27

    The Guardian reports: “G4S, the controversial British outsourcing firm behind thedisastrous security provision at the London Olympics, has been accused of running a “disgraceful” juvenile detention centre in Florida.”27a

Section 3: Misconduct and questionable business practices:

  • G4S has made headlines and evoked controversy for some questionable business practices. During the London Olympics in 2012, G4S failed to provide sufficient security personnel28.
  • In Miami, G4S (formerly Wackenhut Security) was sued for overbilling the county. The company agreed to pay over $7 million to settle the overbilling case29.
  • G4S has had 29 instances of misconduct with penalties assessed at nearly $25 million30.

Section 4: International criticism of G4S:

  • In 2010 and 2012, respectively, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.N. watchdog Global Policy forum published criticism of G4S as a military contractor31.
  • In 2012, at the height of a historic hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners, Palestinian organizations called for action to hold G4S accountable for its role in Israeli’s prison system.32
  • An October 2012 report by UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk criticizes G4S as a prime example of a company that should be held to account for participation in Israeli violations of international law33.
  • A 2013 legal study conducted by the Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Resource Centre found that G4S has “failed to demonstrate a genuine commitment to comply with international law in good faith” and outlined various ways in which G4S is not in compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights34.
  • In 2013 War on Want nominated G4S as the world’s worst company in 2013 Public Eye Awards35.
  • The UK National Contact Point (NCP) for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported in June 2015: “significant failures by G4S in its overarching obligations to respect human rights.”36
  • On April 16, 2015, six Palestinian human rights organizations asked the United Nations to end its contracts with G4S.37

Section 5: Divestment from and boycott of G4S

  • Sixty UK Members of Parliament signed a motion in June 2012 to bar firms with dubious human rights records, like G4S, from government contracts. The motion cited the European Parliament’s cancellation of a G4S security contract because of its prison business in Israel. 38

    • In December 2012, the University of Osloannounced it would end its G4S security contract.39

  • In June 2014, the Gates Foundation divested the whole of its $17 million holding in G4S as a result of an international campaign.40
  • The United Methodist Church, the largest protestant church, voted in June 2014 to divest from G4S, citing concerns about the companies involvement in human rights violations.41
  • In November 2014, Durham County, North Carolina, ends its contract with G4S following a campaign by local citizens, including Jewish Voice for Peace.42
    • In June 2015, United Church of Christ national legislative body voted overwhelmingly to call for the divestment and boycott of companies that are complicit in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza,including G4S.42a
  • In June 2015, Columbia University became the first US university to divest from the private prison industry (G4S and Corrections Corporations of America).43
  • Colleges and University Student Associations that have called for divestment from G4S include: Britain National Union of Students44, Columbia University45, Dundee University46, Kent University47,Loyola University48, Northwestern University49, Oberlin College50, Olgethorpe University51, Stanford University52, University of New Mexico53, University of California Davis53a.

Section 6: Talk but no action: G4S Responds

In March 2011, in response to mounting criticism of its business practices in Israel/Palestine, G4S announced that, “to ensure that our business practices remain in line with our own Business Ethics Policy, we will aim to exit a number of contracts which involve the servicing of security equipment at the barrier checkpoints, prisons and police stations in the West Bank. We will aim to complete this exit as soon as possible, but also recognize that we have contractual obligations to our customers which we must take into consideration.”54

Facing increasing pressure from civil society groups, G4S made statements at its June 2014 shareholders meeting in London that it planned to end its activities inside Israel’s prisons, but not until 2017.55

However, G4S also made clear that it would continue servicing businesses in the settlements and prisons within Israel.  As a result, human rights groups are continuing to call on G4S to act immediately to end all aspects of its complicity with Israeli human rights violations by ending all contracts with the Israeli prison service and occupation immediately.56

While G4S has made various commitments to end some aspects of its participation in Israeli human rights violations, it has not yet met any of these commitments, and has instead tried to deflect criticism of its role in Israeli human rights violations, including by hiring known pro-Israel advocates to write legal analyses of its activities in Palestine/Israel. These analyses, commissioned by G4S, are neither independent nor credible.57
Annotated footnotes:

  1. G4S Key Facts and Figures:
  2. Group 4 Securicor (G4S)
    3.   G4S Palestine
  3. 4. Statistics on Palestinians in the custody of the Israeli security forces /
  4. Prisons and Detention Centers
  5. Imprisoned Voices Corporate Complicity
  6. Palestinian Prisoners in Israel
  7. Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations (Bulletin No. 2: February 2015) UNICEF , page 3
  8. Military Court Watch
  9. Defense of Children International Palestine Military Detention
  10. Nearly 100% of all military court cases in West Bank end in conviction, Haaretz learns, Nov. 29 2011 by Chaim Levinson
  11. Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations ( Feb. 2013) UNICEF (Executive Summary) “This paper … concludes that the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.”
  12. Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
  13. International Human Rights Law, Geneva Convention (IV) article 76: Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.
  14. G4S’ hidden business in Israel’s prisons.
  15. B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: “Administrative Detention,”
  16. Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association: “Administrative Detention,”
  17. Addameer – Palestinian Legislative Council members
  18. Israel cracks down on anti-war protestors\
  19. Israel: End Crackdown on Anti-Wall Activists
  20. G4S’ hidden business in Israel’s prisons, Corporate Watch: Tracking Corporate Complicity in the Occupation of Palestine ( July 2013)
  21. Settlements are illegal under international law Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention. The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. OR
    23. Who Profits G4S Israel (Hashmira)
    24. Noam Chomsky: My Visit to Gaza, the World’s Largest Open-Air Prison

25A. G4S Settles over prison van death.

25B) Toddlers, rats, asbestos. G4S, asylum seekers’ landlord

25 G4S ‘tortured inmates’ at South African prison as they were ‘understaffed’
25D. Global exchange: G4S Worldwide

  1. ibid 25
  2. Perhaps the saddest profit motive ever

    27aFor-profit juvenile detention facility ‘a disgrace to Florida’, says grand jury

  3. Olympic failure leaves G4S in tatters, admits CEO
  4. Miami-Dade, Wackenhut near settlement in alleged overbillings for Metrorail guards
  5. Project on Government Insight G4S PLC,73,221,html?ContractorID=88HYPERLINK “,73,221,html?ContractorID=88&ranking=101″&HYPERLINK “,73,221,html?ContractorID=88&ranking=101″ranking=101
  6. Ten reasons to vote for G4S as the World’s Worst Company
    32. BDS Movement: Freedom Justice Equality (Stop G4S webpage)
  7. United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967(paragraphs 47-51)
  8. Securing Injustice: Legal Analysis of G4S Israel Operations in Occupied Palestinian Territory
  9. Ibid. 31
  10. LPHR Public Statement: UK watchdog finds G4S is violating human rights obligations towards Palestinians
  11. Letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, April 16 2015
  12. G4S loses its contract with the European Parliament
  13. University of Oslo to end G4S contract over support for Israeli apartheid
  14. Gates Foundation sells stake in U.K. prison operator G4S
  15. United MethodistChurch Divests from G4S
  16. Ibid 40

42a. UCC votes for divestment, boycott of companies that profit from occupation of Palestinian territories.

  1. Columbia becomes first US university to divest from private prison industry
  2. UK’s student union condemns Israel, calls for boycott
  3. ibid 43
  4. G4S – Action Palestine DUSA AGM Motion (26/02/2013)
  5. UK student union to cancel G4S contract over role in Israeli prisons
  6. Loyola Univ Chicago student union passes resolution to divest from Israeli occupation.
  7. Northwestern Divestment Resolution Passes in Senate
  8. Oberlin College student senate passes divestment resolution, targets six companies
  9. ‘Oglethorpe stands with Palestine’: BDS comes to the American south (Updated)
  10. Stanford student senate divestment resolution
  11. Graduate students vote to divest at University of New Mexico
    53a UC Davis passes divestment resolution, five other campaigns launched across US
  12. The Case of G4S (pages 32-33)
  13. Ibid 2
  14. BDS pressure forces G4S to distance itself from Israel’s prison system
  15. Ibid 37

    Updated September 25, 2015