Olympic error: UK government to answer for hiring human rights abuser

The British government is up for questioning from Parliament over why it has handed over the Olympic Games' security to a company accused of human rights abuses in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

­The UK-based G4S, which describes itself as the “world’s leading international security solutions group,” was selected as the “official provider of security and cash services for the Olympics.”

Moreover, it has already taken on 10,400 new employees for the 2012 Olympiad.

However, the company’s activities in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the UK considers illegal, have raised questions in Westminster.

The matter of fact is that G4S is a known provider of equipment for several Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank as well as for security systems at the Ofer detention center in Ramallah. That facility houses a jail and a military court, where Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are held and tortured. British Parliament strongly criticized the detention center for human rights abuses in 2010.

G4S also provides equipment to and secures the perimeter of several other Israeli prisons in which prisoners, illegally transferred from Palestinian territories, are held in breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It remains unclear how a company with such a questionable reputation could have been chosen to provide security during the London Olympics. G4S seems to be “about the worst you could pick in the world to do this job,” investigative journalist Tony Gosling told RT.

“This is basically the privatization of the British police force. It’s being sucked in by the G4S," Gosling says. He added that G4S are even "starting to operate police stations, they are also starting to do a lot of civilian support work for the police."

And, Gosling adds, the company seems to be receiving the UK's support – in the form of official contracts. "They are bidding for contracts in Birmingham and elsewhere to actually operate detention facilities inside existing police stations.”

G4S already runs six private prisons in the UK, where several hundred detainees are hired for full-time work paying under $3 a day. The privatization of prisons by companies like G4S creates a very dangerous financial incentive to criminalize poor people and "incarcerate them for private profit," according to Gosling.

The parliamentary grilling next week will be led by Labour peer Lord Hollick. He will prepare questions to the government on Monday concerning steps it has taken to prevent G4S from continued cooperation with Israeli officials in the illegal Jewish settlements. 

The move follows recent international condemnation of Israel's settlement expansion. On May, 7 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build another 850 homes in four settlements in the occupied West Bank. New settlements were said to be built to compensate for the “evacuation of 30 apartments” ordered by the Supreme Court.

The British government’s eager cooperation with G4S is in spite of the fact that in September 2011, the firm's contract to deport migrants from the UK was canceled after it came to light that some 773 complaints of abuse had been filed against it, and following the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum-seeker who died as a result of being “restrained” by G4S staff. 

On Thursday, more than 70 people demonstrated outside the G4S Annual General Meeting in protest of the company's human rights abuses in various locations from Israeli prisons to British immigration detention centers. During the demonstration, the activist groups provided an annual report detailing the company’s abuses of basic rights in both Britain and Palestine.