UK govt to be quizzed over Olympics security firm’s links to W Bank settlements


In the upcoming next week session of the British parliament, the government will be grilled over its decision to allow a firm suspected of human rights abuses in Palestinian territories to provide security services for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

G4S, chosen as “official provider of security and cash services for the Olympics,” also operates in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are seen by the UK – and nearly all other countries represented at the Games – as illegal according to international law.

The company, which describes itself as the “world’s leading international security solutions group” and as the “official provider of security and cash services for the Olympics,” has already taken on 10,400 new employees for the 2012 Games, the Independent reported on Thursday.

The parliament, however, will be quizzed by prominent businessman and Labor peer Lord Hollick, after he files a written question on Monday, on the steps the parliament has taken to ensure that G4S is not providing security services in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Uproar in UK

Another British newspaper, the Morning Star, reported that activists from more than a dozen campaign groups picketed in front of the firm’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

The demonstration was called jointly by anti-deportation, Palestine solidarity and anti-workfare groups as well as the Iraqi Refugee Council.

During the demonstration, the activist groups provided an annual report detailing the company’s abuse of basic rights in both Britain and Palestine.

The report highlighted the company’s role in the deportation and detention of asylum-seekers and refugees and its role in the Israeli prison system.

In Britain, the firm lost its contract to deport failed asylum-seekers last September after 773 complaints of abuse were made against the company and following the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum-seeker who died after being “restrained” by G4S staff.

The firm has already been criticized for providing and maintaining screening equipment for several West Bank military checkpoints, the Independent said.

It provides security systems at the Ofer complex near Ramallah – which houses a jail and military court where Palestinian detainees, including children, are held and tried – and at the West Bank police headquarters in the E1 corridor linking the large settlement of Maale Adumim with Jerusalem, it added.

The construction of the latter was strongly opposed by the international community, including the administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush.

The British parliament grilling session comes after fresh international condemnation of Israel’s continuous settlement expansion.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced that an additional 850 settler homes are to be built in the West Bank to compensate for the evacuation ordered by the Supreme Court of an outpost housing 30 families.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has repeatedly condemned the settlement building, saying in April that “systematic, illegal Israeli settlement activity poses the most significant and live threat to the viability of the two-state solution... the Israeli government's policy is illegal under international law, counter-productive, destabilizing and provocative.”

Direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians on a peace deal remain in deep freeze after grinding to a halt in late 2010 over the issue of Jewish settlement construction.