Complicit firms come under fire at second day of tribunal

Sunday, 21 November 2010

British arms companies today faced heavy criticism in London for aiding Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

The jury at the second day of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine heard expert witnesses give evidence on the complicity of firms – including British-Danish security company G4S.

John Hilary, executive director of charity War on Want called for the British government to launch a two-way arms embargo on Israel. He also told the jury that Israeli company Verint has supplied CCTV cameras for the London Underground.

The tribunal was also told that Hermes 450 drones produced by Israeli arms company Elbit were used during the brutal Israeli attacks on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Yet the British army has awarded Elbit Systems and its partner Thales UK a deal worth over $1 billion to develop the Watchkeeper, the next generation of drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

Hilary said the British government had conceded that components licensed for export from Britain were “almost certainly” used by the Israeli armed forces in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Although all the companies implicated by experts in complicity of Israeli abuse over the course of the weekend were offered a right of reply to the tribunal, most did not. The Dutch company PFZW was the only company to offer a detailed statement.

They claimed that they “no longer invest in any of the Israeli companies mentioned” by the tribunal’s witness. However, tribunal witness Saskia Müller testified that PFZW had since then invested in two new Israeli companies involved in the occupation of the West Bank.

In its letter of reply submitted to the tribunal, G4S said that it had “decided not to engage” with the tribunal, but that its policy is “always to comply with national law” in the relevant jurisdiction.

But tribunal witnesses had accused G4S of violations of international law.

Israeli academic Dr Dalit Baum from the Who Profits? research project testified that the complicity of British-Danish security company G4S involved human rights abuses at the notorious Ofer prison in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli group Who Profits? which has been a major source of evidence to the tribunal, are currently threatened by prospective new laws in the Israeli parliament which would outlaw any organisation that promotes boycotts.

Josh Reubener, the National Advocacy Director for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation told the jury that the Obama administration was shortly due to request a record budget of $3.75 billion from the US congress.

The jury includes UK barristers Lord Anthony Gifford QC, Michael Mansfield QC and John Dugard, former special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.


The tribunal continues until 6.30 today. The jury will give its verdict during a press conference at 10.30am tomorrow (Monday, 22 November).

The tribunal is also being broadcast live over the internet on our website (address below). Video from both days is also available on the website.

The press conference will take place at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.


Ewa Jasiewicz, RToP media team (+44) (0)7749 421576
Paul Collins, RToP media team (+44) (0)7983 550728


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