G4S, Medway Secure Training Centre, and my local MP Kelly Tolhurst.

05/01/2016 at 18.20

Dear Kelly

This Wednesday morning (06/01/2016), a Westminster Hall debate will be taking place on child prisoners and detainees in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel has dramatically increased its detention of Palestinians in the past months, including children, subjecting them to abuse and torture, and holding most of them in prisons inside Israel in violation of international law. Yet the UK government continues its unconditional support for Israel, making it complicit in the abuse.

Having an active interest in children’s welfare will you agree to attend the discussion tomorrow to speak out on behalf of Palestinian children arrested or detained by Israel? As my local MP I’m asking you to raise the issue of UK government contracts with the British company G4S, which provides services and equipment to the Israeli Prison Authority. You can refer to EDM 287 which details Israel‘s abhorrent treatment of Palestinian children in detention and calls on the government to demand immediate action from the Israeli government to abide by international law.

Will you join me in doing what you can to help bring an end to Israel‘s tyranny over Palestine and the innocent children that are effected by their stance?

Many thanks

Alex Turner

Kelly did not attend. Here’s a link to the debate (p73 – 89) to see who did and what was said. I’ll post an update if I get a reply from Kelly. None so far. It’s also worth mentioning that Kelly did not sign the early day motion (EDM 287) on Israeli Military Treatment of Palestinian Children either.

In the meantime though it was interesting to read the following entry in Hansard. Kelly chipped into Andy Slaughter’s (Hammersmith) (Lab) (Urgent Question) to ask the Secretary of State if he will make a statement on safety in prisons and secure training centres.

11 Jan 2016 : Column 577Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for his response this afternoon, which I found very helpful. I was shocked and appalled to hear the allegations of abuse of young people by staff at Medway secure training centre, a borstal in my constituency. I understand that the allegations result from an undercover BBC “Panorama” investigation and I, too, thank the BBC. I am extremely concerned to learn, however, that the BBC revealed these allegations only at the end of December, with the investigation having run from October to December. I question why authorities were not alerted immediately. Last Thursday, I had a long conversation with Paul Cook, the director of children’s services at G4S, so that he could update me on the immediate action that has been taken at Medway STC following these allegations. Will the Secretary of State assure me that following the conclusion of the police investigation, the Youth Justice Board will review the safeguarding processes and measures in place at Medway STC so that I can be sure, as a constituency MP, that young people placed there are being looked after?

Not sure why Kelly is shocked given the contracts G4S has with Israel. Hardly the paragons of moderation and compassion. Her reference to the timing of the BBC’s disclosure reveals a basic lack of knowledge about the investigatory processes involved. It looks to me like a clumsy attempt at drawing negative attention to the whistle-blower and damage limitation for the accused.

38 degrees are currently pushing a petition to Strip G4S of the contract to run the Medway Secure Training Centre with immediate effect, following continued allegations of child abuse by staff members at the establishment as well as others run by the company. If you’re so inclined you can sign the petition here.

Update: 13 January 2016 at 16:43

Dear Mr Turner

Thank you for contacting me about the treatment of Palestinian children in custody. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate on 6 January, owing to parliamentary duties I had elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I share your concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children under the Israeli military court system, as this is an issue that is very close to my heart given my Grandfather served in the Palestinian police in the 1940s. I believe that it is fundamentally wrong that children of any background are treated in a way that is demeaning and unfair vis-à-vis the treatment given to Israeli children, which is why I am happy to raise concerns with my ministerial colleagues in the future. I was delighted that the debate was so well attended from colleagues across all parties and an encouraging response from the minister was received.

Following the publication of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded, independent report into the treatment of child detainees in Israeli military custody, I understand that some progress has been made. The UK Government has pressed Israel to take action on the findings and recommendations of the report, and has welcomed some steps that the Israeli Government has taken. These include changes to standard operating procedures on methods of restrain and the pilot to use summons instead of night-time arrests.

However, I agree that much more still needs to be done and I know that the Government has expressed concerns in a number of areas, including about the mistreatment of Palestinian detainees during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention and about Israel’s respect of its obligations in this regard as an Occupying Power under applicable international law. The Foreign Office has raised concerns over treatment of Palestinian detainees with the Israeli authorities on many occasions, including at Foreign Minister, Attorney General and National Security Adviser levels and I am assured they will continue to do so. Regardless, given my own interest in this area, I will continue to monitor the progress we are expecting and I will do all I can to take this matter forwards.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.

Yours sincerely,

Kelly Tolhurst MP

That’s all good to know. It will be interesting to see what Kelly does to take the matter forward. The reference to Israeli children in the reply seems a bit odd though. Child sexual abuse in Israel is rife as is child poverty (Arab children being disproportionately more at risk of the latter than those of Jewish parents). In that sense I share Kelly’s view that it is fundamentally wrong that children of any background are treated in a way that is demeaning and unfair. Quite why though she raises it in the context of the abuse and torture of Palestinians escapes me. Bit like here reference to the timing of the BBC’s disclosures when speaking about the abuse of children by G4S staff at Medway Secure Training Centre.

Update: 14th March 2016 – http://www.waronwant.org/media/g4s-bows-campaigning-pressure

10 March 2016 – 10:30am – Press release
British security company G4S has announced it will sell its entire Israeli business in the next two years.

The announcement follows an intensive four year global campaign targeting G4S over its complicity in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights and continued abuses around the world.

G4S provides equipment and services to Israeli prisons where Palestinian political prisoners are held in violation of international law, often held without charge or trial, and subject to torture. G4S also provides equipment to Israeli military checkpoints along the illegal Apartheid Wall.

Ryvka Barnard, Militarism and Security Campaigner at War on Want, said:

“Whether it’s supporting Israeli Apartheid, abusing children in its care, or stoking violence against asylum seekers in the UK, G4S has continued to rake in the profits with little regard for human rights.

“Campaigners have repeatedly exposed G4S abuses around the world, successfully organising student unions, universities, charities, United Nations agencies, popular restaurants and others to boycott and divest from G4S until it ends its complicity in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

“G4S’s announcement proves that campaigning works, yet we will continue to pressure G4S until it ends its involvement in abuse entirely.”

The company announced the sale of its Israeli operations in its 2015 end of the year results, along with UK Utility services, US Youth Justice services and UK children’s services. Its announcement follows similar moves by French multinationals Veolia and Orange, and Ireland’s biggest company CRH, all of which have ended their business in Israel in the past few months after campaign pressure.

Campaigners have consistently targeted G4S over its complicity in human rights violations against Palestinians, and abuse at youth detention centres in the UK. In the past four years, G4S has lost contracts worth millions of pounds as a result of campaigns in the UK, South Africa, Jordan, Colombia and the United States.

Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, said: “At a time when Israel is stepping up its campaign of mass incarceration as a way of repressing Palestinian society, G4S should end its role in Israel’s prison system immediately, as well as its role in maintaining Israeli checkpoints and illegal settlements.”

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