The UN has an obligation to uphold human rights.

Dear Mr. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

We, the undersigned religious leaders, are deeply troubled that the United Nations has a number of major contracts with the international security company G4S, which provides services to UN facilities and agencies in violation of the UN’s own guidelines. We urge the UN to end its relationship with G4S because of the company’s active role in human rights abuses (continues below)...

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...Our diverse faith traditions all proclaim that each human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This belief provides a moral imperative to respect the dignity of every person regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. Intrinsic to human dignity are the rights that enable each person not only to survive but to thrive; that is, to fulfill his or her God-given potential. This theological principle is at the heart of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the body of international and human rights law.

Our sacred texts (1) clearly teach us that human societies must restrain any attempts to violate the dignity of individuals or populations through deprivation or torture, that is, through violations of human rights—and in fact must make positive efforts to assist the needy and the oppressed. The specific emphasis on the most vulnerable among us—the poor, hungry, and children—must be granted a high priority of those needing special attention as protected persons.

G4S is complicit in Israel’s human rights violations, and it demonstrates by its actions that it does not support or respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.

G4S has an ongoing contract with the Israeli prison service to provide and maintain security systems at Israeli prisons that currently hold almost 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners.(2) Palestinian and international human rights organizations have documented widespread torture and mistreatment of Palestinian political prisoners, including children.

  • By maintaining security systems at Israel’s prisons, G4S assists Israel in using mass incarceration to deter Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s violations of international law and is complicit in Israel’s violations of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier. 
  • G4S provides equipment and services to checkpoints that make up the route of Israel’s separation wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; to private businesses in illegal Israeli settlements; and to Israeli police facilities in other Israeli government(3) buildings in the occupied West Bank.
  • G4S has provided equipment to checkpoints that enforce the siege of Gaza.(4) 

A 2012 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 criticized G4S for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law.(5) 

While G4S has made various commitments to end some aspects of its participation in Israeli human rights violations, it has not yet met any of these commitments, and has instead tried to deflect criticism of its role in Israeli human rights violations. It has hired known pro-Israel advocates to write legal analyses of its activities in Palestine/Israel. These analyses, commissioned by G4S, are neither independent nor credible.(6)

G4S commits grave human rights violations around the world.

  • G4S has been implicated in labor rights violations at several of its global sites. Official complaints under OECD guidelines from G4S sites in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and others led to a G4S commitment to workers’ rights in 2008, but despite this, in the following years G4S was implicated in labor rights abuses in Uganda, South Korea, and South Africa, demonstrating that G4S cannot be trusted to maintain the fair conditions to which it formally agrees. (7)
  • G4S has a deplorable track record of serious negligence and violent abuse in prisons it runs around the world. In the UK, G4S lost a contract for one of its multiple private prisons after evidence emerged of improper management of health care provision, suicide prevention, and human rights protection. In South Africa, investigations exposed G4S security teams using electric shocks and forcible medical injections of anti-psychotic drugs at the Mangaung prison.(8) In the United States, G4S operates juvenile detention facilities, provides infrastructure to track and confine formerly incarcerated people, and works alongside Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection to detain and deport people across the U.S.-Mexico border and to transfer immigrants to detention facilities across the country.(9)
  • G4S  has  also  been  criticized  for deaths in custody during deportation and immigrant detention. In one well-known case, Angolan national Jimmy Mubenga was suffocated to death by three G4S guards while being deported in 2010. In another case, Kenyan national Eliud Nguli Nyenze died at a removal center run by G4S, after he was refused medicine earlier in the day despite his complaints of severe pain.(10) G4S received 1,497 complaints in three years regarding its human rights record in these deportation institutions.(11)

The UN has an obligation to uphold human rights. 

The UN Supplier Code of Conduct states “the UN expects its suppliers to support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and to ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.” The UN Group on the Use of Mercenaries recently reported the risks of hiring companies with tarred human rights records.(12) We urge the UN to apply its own principles and standards and to end its relationship with G4S due to its clear and active role in human rights abuses.


(1) Throughout Hebrew and Christian Scriptures there is a conspicuous mandate to protect the vulnerable, the powerless, and the marginalized. Merely a few examples of these texts, as translated in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, are as follows: In the Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 22:22 (You shall not abuse any widow or orphan), Exodus 23:9 (You shall not oppress a resident alien), Deuteronomy 24:17 (You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge), Psalm 146:7 ([The LORD] who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free). In the Christian Scriptures: Luke 6:20–21 (Blessed are you who are poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.), Matthew 25:35–36, 40 (. . . for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. . . . Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me).

(2) Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer Monthly Detention Report, 1 April 2015,

(3) Defence for Children International, Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Custody Face Physical Violence, 20 January 2014,

(4) Who Profits from the Occupation, March 2011, The Case of G4S: Private Security Companies and the Israeli Occupation.

(5) Ibid

(6) United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 25 October 2012, “Boycott businesses that profit from Israeli settlements”—UN Special Rapporteur.

(7) Amena Saleem, 11 June 2014, G4S hires pro-Israel professor to whitewash war crimes,

(8) War on Want, June 2014, G4S: Securing Profits, Globalising Injustice.,%20globalising%20injustice%20(corrected%202015).pdf

(9) Ibid

(10) Global  Exchange,  G4S  Worldwide, 11 Karon Monaghan QC, 31 July 2013, Inquest into the Death of Jimmy Kelenda Mubenga.

(11) War on Want, June 2014, G4S: Securing Profits, Globalising Injustice.

(12) 21 August 2014, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of people to self-determination.



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