G4S: Israel work does not break international law

Security company G4S has defended its work in Israel and denied that it breached international law in its management of security systems at prisons in the West Bank.

Shareholders repeatedly questioned the firm’s new chief executive, Ashley Almanza, about contracts in Israel during the company’s annual general meeting in the City of London.

There have been repeated calls for G4S to pull out of deals which see 6,000 staff provide screening equipment at checkpoints and manage security systems at Ofer prison near Ramallah.

G4S confirmed earlier this year that a number of contracts affecting the firm’s work in the West Bank expire in 2015 and will not be renewed.

Activists demonstrated outside the meeting, with a mock “apartheid” wall set up to represent Israel’s security barrier.

Around half the questions asked during the two-hour meeting referred to contracts in Israel and when the company would terminate its work there.

Among the shareholders attacking Mr Almanza was John Hilary, executive director of charity War on Want, who said he was concerned by the company’s work in Israel.

Danish MP Nikolaj Villumsen claimed that prisoners were tortured in Israeli jails where G4S works. Activists in Copenhagen are lobbying the city council to terminate its contracts with G4S over the issue.

Mr Almanza told shareholders that G4S had “not breached international law” but would “continue to keep the matter under review”. He said that stance would not alter even if the company was “making five times as much money in Israel”.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign chairman Hugh Lanning attended the AGM and said G4S had “learned that there’s a price to be paid for profiting from Israel’s crimes.

“PSC’s campaign against G4S will continue until it stops making money from human rights violations, illegal detention and torture against Palestinians and withdraws from doing business with Israel’s prison service”.

A G4S spokesman said the company’s position had not changed since April, when it confirmed that a full review of its Israel contracts had taken place in 2011 and that the decision “to exit contracts” was taken “in line with our own business ethics policy”.

The Israeli embassy in London has previously praised G4S for helping to prevent suicide bombers and “ensuring convicted terrorists remain under lock and key”.

Last updated: 12:45pm, June 14 2013