G4S has confirmed that it will end all its Israeli prison contracts within the next three years after an annual general meeting that was severely disrupted by human rights protesters.
Asked by angry protesters whether G4S would withdraw from the Palestinian territories as reported by the Financial Times last year, Ashley Almanza, chief executive, confirmed “no change to that position”.
“We expect them to expire and we don’t expect to renew them,” he said.
These include contracts to provide security and screening equipment at military checkpoints, the controversial Ofer prison and a police station in the West Bank, all of which are expected to expire next year.
But Mr Almanza said for the first time that the move would also include prison service contracts all over Israel.
The decision came even though an independent human rights report commissioned by G4S and published on Thursday found the company “had no causal or contributory role in human rights violations”.
“There are clearly human rights failings in some parts of Israel’s security system, but G4S’s role is far removed from their immediate causes and impact,” said the report by Hugo Slim, a research fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford.
G4S employs 8,000 people in Israel, supplying 50,000 customers – including 35,000 private individuals. The company says that it has no employees working at prison sites or managing control rooms in jails in Israel or the occupied territories; staff simply fix security equipment such as CCTV and leave.
Mr Almanza said: “We do not operate prisons, we supply prisons with security equipment.” He added that the equipment made the Israeli prisons safer and did not increase the risk of human rights abuses.
About 25 protesters, who bought shares in the company in order to attend the meeting, were ejected from the room by G4S security guards. At one point a protester threw an alarm under a chair, creating a racket.
Earlier this week, the UK government’s National Contact Point watchdog launched an investigation into G4S’s activities in Israel and the West Bank. The National Contact Point, which is part of the Department for Business, said it had “accepted issues for further examination”. It follows a formal complaint by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, a charity that has long criticised G4S.
Peter Ridsdalesmith, 68, a private shareholder, said he had suffered “nothing but blessed disaster” since buying shares in the company two years ago. “The Olympics, Israel, it’s been nothing but lash-ups,” he said. “This hasn’t been a friendly meeting. I wanted to go home reassured.”
Another shareholder told the board: “I think you should have a special meeting for protesters. I have had two hours of this and I’m done with it.”
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