On Tuesday 26th February 2013, the students of Dundee University Students' Association (DUSA) voted overwhelmingly in its annual general meeting to cut ties with Anglo-Danish private security contractor G4S. G4S is the world's largest private security contractor, and brings with it serious reputation for human rights abuse both domestically and internationally. The case of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan asylum seeker, is notable – he died in their custody on a British Airways flight during a forced deportation in 2010. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, G4S provide services for illegal Israeli settlements, and provide equipment to the apartheid wall (ruled in 2004 as illegal by the International Court of Justice), as well as prisons that have been documented for holding children and torturing prisoners. Action Palestine's motion came immediately in the aftermath of the death of Palestinian political prisoner Arafat Jaradat, who was tortured to death in a G4S-equipped Israeli prison just three days previously.
G4S's present contract with DUSA involves cash handling and transit. However, information on this was only revealed to the students attending the AGM; prior to this, students had had various requests for information regarding DUSA's relationship with G4S turned down for 'commercial reasons'. As a charity, DUSA is immune to Freedom of Information requests.
Opposition from the floor to the motion was weak; most students who spoke up offered comments of support or asked questions pertaining to details of the motion. The primary source of opposition to the motion came from the President of the Students' Association, who argued against the motion for economic and legal reasons. The argument that G4S was the cheapest service provider was unappealing, given G4S's reputation for violating human rights. One comment from the floor noted that the vast majority of students would be willing to pay 'ten pence more for a pint' if it would allow DUSA to cease dealing with such a firm. The legal argument – that DUSA, as a charity, cannot exercise any form of ethical procurement policy – was vague and flimsy, and although the President announced his intention to carry forward the motion to the semi-elected Board of Trustees prior to its implementation, it was nonetheless approved by a clear majority (approximately two thirds) in all its four sections. Other motions passed that evening included an end to the sale of The Sun while it continues to publish Page 3 Girls, and a call for the Students' Association to support a Living Wage for all University staff.
This move comes as students are increasing pressure across Europe to have their universities recognise G4S as a key corporate beneficiary in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and to cease doing business with the company. In December 2012, the University of Oslo decided to terminate its contract with G4S after a campaign by students of the university's Palestine Committee. More recently, in February this year, Queen Mary Students' Union in London voted overwhelmingly to allow the university's G4S contract to expire, on the grounds of the company's profiteering from Israeli war crimes. The vote in DUSA is the latest in the growing campaign to boycott G4S.
We applaud our fellow students for their courageous decision to ditch G4S, and, while we acknowledge that this is not the end of the battle, are ready to continue lobbying the Students' Association and its Trustees to disregard any spurious legal smokescreens and implement the motion in full.
Dundee University Action Palestine Society
First published at: http://www.dusa.co.uk/duaps/dundee-students-in-g4s-victory/