After worldwide protests, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has liquidated their entire stock in British security company G4S. Local and international campaigns had raised concerns about the role that G4S plays in helping Israel run prisons in which Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to torture.
“The Gates Foundation’s decision to divest from G4S human-rights violations is a significant step forward for the growing movement of institutions bringing their practice in line with their stated values,” said Linda Frank, member of Jewish Voice for Peace – Tacoma chapter. “This is also is a big step forward for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is becoming a major force toward ending Israel’s apartheid.”
International public pressure also brought Friday’s announcement from G4S that the company plans to pull out of Israeli prisons completely.
“The G4S campaign will continue until G4S makes good on its word,” said Ed Mast, an organizer of local Seattle protests at the Gates Foundation, “but these institutional decisions already demonstrate the growing international consensus that Israel’s unjust treatment of Palestinians has to be isolated and ended.”
G4S has a contract with the Israeli Prison Service to install and run security and management systems at six prisons where Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are routinely subjected to torture, according to the human rights organizations. G4S has already lost contracts worth millions of dollars as trade unions and universities and other public bodies in Europe and South Africa cancel their contracts over concerns about the firm’s role in Israel’s prison system.
In the U.S., G4S also operates privatized juvenile detention facilities and works with Homeland Security to detain and deport people across the U.S./Mexico border and transport immigrants to detention facilities nationwide.
The Gates Foundation owned over 170 million dollars in G4S shares since June 2013.
On April 17, which is Palestinian Prisoners Day, local activists held a protest at the Seattle office of the Gates Foundation offices at 500 Mercer St. Protesters were able to give the Gates Foundation a petition signed by almost 12,000 people calling on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S over its role in Israel’s prison service. The local protest action included members of the Northwest Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Committee, Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, and Jewish Voice for Peace – Tacoma chapter. Similar protests were held at Gates Foundation offices in London, Johannesburg and Washington DC.
By May 28, the Gates Foundation had divested at least some of its shares in G4S. The Gates Foundation’s full divestment from G4S was confirmed on Saturday June 7.