Archives For human rights

Corporate Profiles: G4S

kamsandhu —  October 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

In part one of our profile on G4S, we focused on the UK services that this security giant has taken over, click here to read.

In part two, we look at G4S’ international record of human rights abuses and violations.

G4S-logo-for-website-feature-2

INTERNATIONAL COMPLICITY IN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

Palestine:

G4S bought two major Israeli private security companies (Hashmira in 2002 – now G4S Israel – and Aminut Moked Artzi in 2010) and signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority and are now providing security and prison services in Israel and the Occupied Territories, including:

• providing security for the apartheid wall

• providing security and scanning for checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza.

This raises issues of legality – some of these checkpoints form part of the illegal route of the apartheid wall

• protects businesses and residential clients based in settlements in the Occupied Territories – also may be legally problematic due to it’s potential link to complicity in violations of international criminal law

• installed a command room in a West Bank prison, where visiting is also highly restricted

• providing services to a number of prisons and a detention facility in Israel: Israeli prisons house detainees who have been transferred from arrest in the Occupied Territories, which violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, along with Palestinian child detainees. Violence, torture and detention without trial are all known to take place at these prisons and family visits are often very difficult to obtain.

• providing security equipment for Israeli Police in West Bank

Private Military Security contracts:

G4S bought the private military security company ArmorGroup in 2008 – part of a booming industry of Private Military Security Companies (PMSCs) which undertake activities that used to be carried out by state militaries. For G4S these have included contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Guantanamo Bay:

In 2014 G4S won a £70m contract to service Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

HUMILIATION, EXPLOITATION, ABUSE, INJURY – AND DEATH

Although a lot of the above could also fit under this category, there are some key cases where individuals have suffered or died in the care or at the hands of G4S.

• 2014: violence broke out at Manus Island immigration detention centre – Australia. Iranian asylum seeker, Reza Barati, was killed and 79 other people were seriously injured. G4S were ‘directly responsible’ for the violence in which their staff directly participated and ‘went on what can only be described as a violent rampage’. G4S staff running the detention centre were also ‘grossly under-trained’.

• 2014 – 79 year old disabled former serviceman awarded £6000 damages after suffering humiliation at the hands of G4S prison officers

• 2014 – G4S criticised for using immigration detainees as cheap labour, paying  as little as £1 per hour for cooking and cleaning duties

• 2013 – G4S were running Mangaung prison in South Africa where they were accused of ‘shocking’ abuses (including electric shocks and forced injections). South African government temporarily took control from G4S to investigate allegations.

• 2012 – ‘Unacceptable force’ used by G4S staff on a pregnant woman in a wheelchair who was being forcibly removed from the UK .

• 2010- Jimmy Mubenga died at the hands of G4S security guards who were restraining him while attempting to deport him to Angola as part of their contract to deport foreign nationals. The inquest into his death concluded that he was unlawfully killed. G4S have since lost their deportations contract, but the case highlighted a number of serious concerns with the way deportations are carried out and the treatment of deportees, including the use of dangerous restraining techniques and a payments system which prioritises keeping detainees quiet, ‘pervasive racism’ within G4S detention staff and lack of important training and legally required accreditation.

• 2011 – G4S fined $285,000 for its involvement in the death of Mr Ward, an Aboriginal elder who died of heatstroke while being transported in a prison van.

• 2010 Khu Mlotshwa, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker, sustained a broken wrist whilst being deported from the UK by G4S guards.

• 2009 – An armed guard employed by G4S in Iraq murdered two colleagues and was employed there despite warnings of his violent behaviour

• 2004 – 15 year old Gareth Myatt died while being restrained by staff at G4S run Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre

by Tekla Szerszynska

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1) IDS outlines plans for benefit pre-payment cards

Image: celebpictu

Image: celebpictu

Pre-paid benefit cards form the latest assault on benefit claimant freedoms as plans for cards loaded with benefit allowances, but with restrictions on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling are released.

Benefit claimants have not committed a crime, yet these cards seem to propagate the idea that claimants must not access the same things as other citizens. This is following cuts and increases in bureaucracy facing claimants.

“Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it would help those “on the margins break the cycle of poverty”.”

The greatest thing to ‘break the cycle of poverty’ is to not cut allowances to rates way below poverty. To not create an environment of insecure, low and temporary work, to better supply a system that transfers claimants from welfare to work that does not punish them in the short term. To support claimants if they are unwell so that they are able to return to health and find work, rather than create further barriers and suspicion. Indeed, it is IDS’ policies that trap people in poverty, yet the Minister for Work and Pensions remains committed to the undoing of those who have the least.

We do support a pre-paid card for MPs expenses however, as they have demonstrated their inability to handle taxpayer’s money correctly.

Sign the petition to re-think benefit pre-payment cards here.

Read more about this story here.

2) Tory plans to scrap human rights greeted by tabloids

The Express and the Daily Mail (ever the protectors of public interest with stories of scandal and tit-bit gossip often overriding social issues) welcomed Tory plans to scrap the Human Rights Bill, with the Express’ front page decrying “Human Rights Madness To End.”

Image: Huffington Post

Image: Huffington Post

For those that would entertain the idea that the party whom reneged on almost every election promise, have failed to meet their deficit reduction targets and sold £1.5m NHS worth of contracts to acquaintances, should be the ones to preside over the recreation of our basic human rights, we suggest you read the stories linked to below.

“Cameron does not care that a hard-fought and hard-won campaign to keep Scotland in the union finished only last month. The Human Rights Act is written into the Scottish devolution settlement. Mess with it and nationalists would have every right to reopen the argument for independence, just as they would if the Conservatives take us out of the European Union. It is also written into the Good Friday agreement, which ended 30 years of war in Northern Ireland. This is not a document that any person with an understanding of modern history would think of changing for a moment. Cameron is happy to meddle.”

Further, Cameron’s comments that anyone who questions 9/11 or 7/7 or indeed any terrorist attack is a terrorist themselves is the perfect demonstration of the kind of Orwellian control the party are aiming for. Thankfully, several people have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate the absurdity of these comments by handing themselves in to local police, only to be turned away.

Still, this is an important note to remember as Teresa May announces new vetting systems supposedly aimed at ‘extremists’ granting new powers of surveillance on and offline “if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy” – if the questioning of events such as 9/11 brand you a terrorist in the eyes of Cameron, how easy can it be to grant the surveillance and interception of all our communications. This is an assault on our freedoms under the veil of fear and terrorism.

To be honest, the fact that we even have to have a conversation about what Human Rights have done for us, demonstrates the success of the destructions of freedoms thus far. We need to change the direction of this issue. Now.

Read more about this story here.

What have Human Rights ever done for us.

3) Tory party conference

Cassette boy summed it up for us:

4) Midwives to strike after Hunt blocks 1% pay rise

MIdwives will strike following blocks to a 1% pay rise by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The Royal College of Midwives will strike for the first time in it’s 133 year history, with a four hour walkout on 13th October between 7am and 11am, supported by union members representing other NHS staff.

The strike was voted in by a count of four to one.

“This is a resounding yes from our members. It could not send a clearer signal about the level of discontent on this issue to those denying them a very modest 1% pay increase,” said the RCM chief executive, Cathy Warwick.”

The RCM maintains that mothers should not be worried as they will be looked after throughout the strike.

Read more about this story here.

5) Wonga to strike off £220m debt

Pay day lender Wonga will write off £220m in loans following the introduction of new affordability checks.

Wonga has come under fire for practices and lending and will now write off loans that would not have been made under new rules.

A further 45,000 people will not have to pay interest on loans made by Wonga.

Read more about this story here.

6) Employers unable to understand qualifications

Four out of ten employers say they have thrown away CVs because they do not understand qualifications, new research has revealed.

Acronyms and ‘flowery language’ is putting off potential employers. Many cannot tell which qualifications are higher or lower, and some believe that qualifications do not ready candidates for work.

“More than half (57 per cent) of employers questioned by City & Guilds said they found acronyms on CVs confusing, and almost two-thirds said they had to look them up on the internet, while the same percentage said they believed candidates who use jargon on their CVs do it to cover up a lack of skills or qualifications.”

Read more about this story here.

7) Workfare Week of Action gets underway

The Workfare Week of Action is underway. Click here to see what actions you can join – the government is fearing it’s collapse, so let’s make it happen. And if you were confused as to what the action is against, this letter sums it up.

Image: Boycott Workfare

Image: Boycott Workfare

 

So just to give you a flavour of what is below, we cover the ground that RealFare doesn’t cover on Welfare, on the areas of Liberty, Economics, Environment and we chuck in a bit of Good News, and something Random from the week.  All links are humorously introduced by yours truly, and I promise you they are not boring, and the best of way of finding out what has really been going on this week!
Read on…

Liberty

I would thoroughly recommend getting Chomsky’s Occupied Media 

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 08.28.48

 

The Muslim plot that wasn’t.

And because the Police aren’t shit enough already, we are introducing the profit motive to them – watch out West Midlands and South East – it’s you first!

Economics (not boring i promise!)

Well I for one am happy that Arriva now own the Manchester ambulance service.

And of course, whilst UKIP don’t want a European Court of HUMAN Rights, they seem perfectly happy with a European court for CORPORATE Rights because I don’t see them complaining about this.

And just taking a moment to think about planned obsolescence.

Image: 1 million women campaign

Image: 1 million women campaign

 

Can we manage a Citizens Income?

This may be a slightly dense article on who owns London’s revenues, but in the search for the cause of spiralling house prices and a vastly unequal economy, it is a good start.

Environment

A thick cloud of Bullshit.

Random Bits of the week

Now, usually I wouldn’t include any post modernist toss, like this piece about Cupcake Fascism, but it is so unfortunately spot on about our natural subservience and pathetic inability to challenge the status quo (whilst also making me want a cupcake), I thought I have to bung it in here.

And the Telegraph admits that rich kids are ruining London

Good news!

Private Eye nicely point out the hypocrisy of a certain Emergency Care PR company complaining about the Teacher’s Strike…

 

Image: Teacher ROAR

Image: Teacher ROAR

1) UN Special Rapporteur in housing calls for ‘bedroom tax’  spare room subsidy to be suspended in the name of human rights

Raquel Rolnik was invited here by government as part of their obligation with the UN, to investigate the availability of adequate housing, and its surrounding policies. Ahead of a report due to be released next year, Rolnik sent out a press release calling on the government to suspend the so-called ‘bedroom tax.’

What ensued was a harsh attack by Grant Shapps – the Conservative party chairman, attempting to denounce Rolnik’s findings as ‘biased.’Shapps called Rolnik a ‘woman from Brazil’ highlighting that the housing problems in Rolnik’s native land were far worse and therefore, she could not comment on housing in the UK. Shapps also wrote a strongly worded letter to the UN, claiming that Rolnik was not invited to the UK, and that her report should be investigated.

Image: Twitter.com

Image: Twitter.com

Rolnik hit back in an interview with Inside Housing, where she said that she not experienced such aggression from a government before, despite her previous missions including “Croatia, Algeria, Maldives, Argentina, United States, Israel, Rwanda, Palestine, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.” Rolnik also highlighted that the spare room subsidy was merely a part of the investigation and elsewhere she had been very positive about UK housing.

Rolnik is continuing her investigation, and for many campaigners, she is providing some hope in rectifying the problems caused by the ‘bedroom tax.’

Read more about this story here.

2) Woman with cerebral palsy told by ATOS she may be fit to work in six months, and her disability ‘expected to improve’

Amy Jones, 24, was can now expect re-assessments every six months and a possible loss of her Employment Support Allowance (ESA) after a fit to work test suggested that her incurable and debilitating condition – cerebral palsy, could improve.

Image: The Huffington Post

Image: The Huffington Post

Amy said:

“It even says in black and white in my medical reports from the hospital that my CP is becoming increasingly disabling.

“There is nothing in my reports to suggest that my CP is improving or becoming less painful or anything like that.”

Amy requested a copy of the ATOS report after being told she would need to be re-assessed for Income Support. The DWP said they could not comment on individual cases.

Read more about this story here.

3) Liberal Democrats will push for minimum wage rise

Business Secretary Vince Cable will approach the Low Pay Commission and ask them to restore the minimum wage to its real value, which is thought to have fallen 10-12% since 2008.

The plans come amid concerns that the economic recovery is not raising living standards, and will demonstrate a government focus on dealing with this in the run up to the election.

In an interview with the Guardian, Vince Cable said:

“We cannot go on for ever in a low pay and low productivity world in which all we can say to workers is ‘you have got to take a wage cut to keep your job’.”

Vince Cable Image: The Telegraph Photo credit should read: Carl Court/PA Wire

Vince Cable Image: The Telegraph Photo credit: Carl Court/PA Wire

Read more about this story here.

4) Michael Gove insulted food bank users, say Labour

Labour MPs branded Michael Gove as “insulting” and “out of touch” following his comments on food bank users.

The Education Secretary said that food bank users often had themselves to blame as “they are not best able to manage their finances,” before promising better support to deal with the rising number of food bank users.

Labour MP, Steve McCabe said:

“Families forced to go to food banks should not be stigmatised by secretaries of state. The spiralling number of food banks across Britain should be a mark of shame for this government.”

 by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
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1) MPs question Iain Duncan Smith on failing Universal Credit system and cover up of problems

After Labour seized a government auditor report on the Universal Credit system, which showed that the implementation was far behind its target and riddled with problems, Labour demanded that Iain Duncan Smith apologise for mis-leading Parliament and ‘consider his conscience.’

IDS was then made to answer questions from MPs on Thursday morning, regarding the cover up, the problems and the system itself.

IDS blamed the troubles within his £2.4bn reform on IT and his civil servants for not telling him of the problems;  “At the end of the day, you are only as good as the information given to you.” Whilst IDS took responsibility for the programme, he did not apologise for the problems within it so far.

Although the evidence clearly showed these issues had thrown the Universal Credit implementation off course, IDS continued to claim that the system would meet its target by the 2015 election.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) UN send senior official to investigate ‘bedroom tax’

Raquel Rolnik, a senior United Nations official, will be in the UK until September 11th to investigate whether the ‘bedroom tax’ will impact on human rights.

Ms Rolnik has been invited by the UK government, and will meet tenants, landlords, campaigners and academies in numerous cities around the UK including Manchester and Glasgow.

The Special Rapporteur on housing for UN, said that the UK faced a “unique moment” when housing was on the agenda. Ms Rolnik will reveal some of the findings of her investigation next week.

Image: Twitter.com

Image: Twitter.com

Read more about this story here.

3) A quarter of those becoming homeless are forced out of private rented accommodation

The latest government statistics reveal that a quarter of those becoming homeless have been forced to leave private rented accommodation and have nowhere else to live.

“Between April and June 2013, 3,580 households became homeless in this way, accounting for 27% of instances of accepted homelessness, an increase of 32% on the same period in 2012 (see table 774 here). Go back to 1998 and terminated tenancies accounted for 15% of homelessness; when the Coalition took power in 2010 it stood at 14%; now, latest statistics show, it is at 27% – an all time record level.”

Patrick Butler, The Guardian

4) DPAC take over BBC HQ building in protest against media 

Just in case you may not have heard about this, as ironically, the media were completely silent on the topic, but DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), Black Triangle and the Mental Health Resistance Network took over the BBC last week in a protest against the media treatment of disabled claimants.

Their press release said:

“Disabled activists from grassroots campaigns Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle and Mental Health Resistance Network have occupied the BBC building in London to protest against the role the media are playing in worsening attitudes towards disabled people and a complete failure to give space to the realities of what this government are doing to disabled people.”

The protest was part of the DPAC week of action which ended on 4th September with a handing in of their manifesto (‘Reclaiming Our Futures’) to government, on what disabled people want.

Great work.

Look out for our interview with Paula Peters (she’s in the first part of this video) and Shaun McGovern this week.

You can read the ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’ manifesto here.

Read more of the press release here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

//

Despite the success of the Workfare week of action the other week, there is still plenty of work to do to stop the scheme. There are still many people who are not sure what the scheme is and they are not helped along by the silence of the media or the confusing number of aliases the government runs the scheme under.

A Boycott Workfare Protest earlier this year. Image: Johnny Void

A Boycott Workfare Protest earlier this year. Image: Johnny Void

However, public support and awareness can make a huge difference and has already pushed companies to pull out of the scheme in light of the negative public reaction.

To find out more we caught up with Joanna from Boycott Workfare – the grassroots campaign group set up by individuals affected by the scheme to help others with information, knowing their rights, and also to expose and protest against companies involved.

The interview took place in a sunny park, so please excuse the sound in some parts:

“Chris Grayling’s really annoyed that campaigners have set the agenda on the language around this but we’re naming it for what it is which is forced unpaid labour in the UK.”

“Some of the only information in the public domain about whether you are eligible for these schemes is from Freedom Of Information requests the campaign has been able to do to put that information out there. The government would rather we had no idea about our rights and were just subject to the will of the job-centre or the work programme providers and just had to obey on threat of starvation.”

Joanna – Boycott Workfare

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
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Demonstration against Legal Aid Cuts Image: The Times

Demonstration against Legal Aid Cuts Image: The Times

Tabloid press can’t shout enough about the fat cat lawyers and criminals making and taking money out of legal aid, with an aptly timed run of stories in support of cuts to the service. But this simplified version of events and the absence of column inches on the impact of the cuts for clients, fairness and justice is misleading.

The Sun recently published the earnings of the top ten legal aid lawyers, with Balbir Singh, a lawyer specialising in Human Rights, Terrorism and Immigration topping the bill with £493,022  “of public cash for defending criminals in 2011-12,” the Sun said.

The Daily Mail is following a similar route – finding the biggest figures from the biggest companies and presenting them in their usual sensationalist style. The paper also highlights cases such as Abu Qatada, where high-profile criminals are using legal aid – in a bid to convey that the service is there to defend and pump money into criminals alone.

The Daily Mail was also the paper to first reveal the costs of legal aid for two of Stephen Lawrence’s killers. Gary Dobson and David Norris, jailed for life in January last year, received a total of around £425,000 in legal aid. Other media also ran the story.

We should be allowed to access this information. There is no problem with this transparency. But, without some attention on how severe the cuts will be and what they will change, this media suggests money is only taken from the parts that can stand to lose it, by making the most of extreme cases and not providing the full picture.

They neglect to tell us about the impact on the client, how their trials will be treated or how fairness will be affected. And the tabloids carry a dangerous attitude towards those in the criminal system – they seem to ignore that anyone was ever found innocent.

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in 1993 Image: The Mirror

Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in 1993 Image: The Mirror

The Stephen Lawrence case is the perfect example. The story stretches back over 20 years, is extremely high profile and is very complex. In fact, there are still huge parts of this case unfolding as we have seen in the last few days. Doreen Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, also used legal aid to fight the case for her murdered son. How would this case change if it happened after the legal aid cuts? According to the legal aid lawyer for Stephen Lawrence’s family, Imran Khan, the case wouldn’t be handled at all, particularly not by the kind of specialist needed:

Mr Khan said the changes would make it difficult to take on complex and costly cases, such as the Lawrence murder, which could produce changes that benefit all Londoners. He claimed the new system would lead to large law firms offering “bulk buying” prices that would force many ethnic minority solicitors out of business.”

Savings in legal aid from the current and proposed plans will come from price competitive tendering, whereby contracts to supply legal aid will be awarded to those bidding at a rate at least 17.5% lower than the current amount. These reductions are on top of a previous run of cuts introduced in April.

Further, the amount of contracts – and the amount of companies allowed to supply legal aid – will be lowered to around 25% of the current number – pushing some firms out of business.

To be able to supply work at this rate, the government is hoping to see bids from multinationals such as Tesco and Eddie Stobart – companies big enough to cope with the drastic cuts (which could see juniors paid £14 a day) because they are able to take contracts in a few geographical areas. Of course the motivation for these companies will be to make the most money, as quickly as possible. And it seems that is the aim of the government too, as they want to offer the work out to these huge companies with no legal background.

What this will change for something like the Stephen Lawrence case, is a freedom to seek specialist advice. There is no client choice under new proposals.

This removal of choice for specialist law, which in its entirety is a subject hugely complex and far-reaching, will surely drive down the quality of service.You could be allocated a lawyer from a multinational firm with no specialism and no interest except to turn your case over as quickly as possible.

The quickest way to do this is get your client to plead guilty. Many in the legal profession believe that there will be a huge increase in false ‘guilty’ pleas in order to move cases along quicker.

So while it may seem attractive in hindsight, to disallow Dobson and Norris the right to their own lawyer, Doreen Lawrence would be disallowed the same right.

Would the lawyer she would be allocated have become the ‘rock’ (as he is described) that Imran Khan did?

Doreen Lawrence and Imran Khan Image: The Telegraph

Doreen Lawrence and Imran Khan Image: The Telegraph

And while we can look unfavorably at Dobson and Norris now, they still required a fair trial before they were proven guilty.This is the most crucial aspect of the justice system. Yet, media such as The Sun and the Daily Mail often freely tarnish people as criminals before, during and after trials – based on how they look, what they do and most worryingly this opinion is projected onto the public.

In The Sun’s afore mentioned description of Babir Singh, he was said to have been ‘defending criminals.’ Just criminals. No mention of the people who he defended that may have been innocent? The people he saved from jail and punishment when they were wrongly accused?

Remember Christopher Jefferies? He was the landlord accused of the murder of 25 year old Joanna Yeates, and he received his unfortunate share of the media spotlight. Tabloids, including the Daily Mail – which ran the headline “Murder police quiz ‘nutty professor’,  seemed to make up their minds about him before his trial and a consensus of guilty for the ‘strange’ professor seeped from the pages into the public atmosphere.

Just one of the front tabloid pages devoted to Chris Jefferies when he was arrested

Just one of the front tabloid pages devoted to Chris Jefferies when he was arrested

After a few days of tabloid taunt, which Jefferies knew nothing about as he was held by the courts, another tenant of his was arrested, found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Jefferies was interviewed at the Leveson inqury and has not yet received an apology from any media for the ordeal.  

This is a worrying effect of media on trials and the lives of individuals. Yet it seems no lessons have been learned, as the press continues to villainise and bandy around the word ‘criminal’ as a term for anyone who comes into contact with the legal system.

There are thousands of people that need legal aid to protest a false claim. And it acts as an important protection against powerful authorities.

This mother required legal aid to defend her two sons, after were arrested at the student demonstrations. They were eventually acquitted from the charge of violent disorder. Because their chosen law firm Bindmans, specialised in protest law they were able to take good care of the family’s case. The firm had connections to local support groups, and through one of these groups, they found someone who had video footage from the protest that would clear the boys’ name. Despite 11 witness statements from police – making the case difficult, the boys were rightly cleared of the crime.

As Imran Khan highlighted, legal aid goes much further than defending the guilty:

The future is bleak. Legal aid is not simply about defending so-called criminals, it is also about protecting people’s rights and improving society for everyone… But now it is getting to the stage where lawyers are going to be turning away cases that might be the next Lawrence, the next Zahid Mubarek or the next Climbié.”

Find out more about legal aid cuts in this report from Radio 4.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
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