Bill Gates attacked over G4S child prisoners 'shame'

17 April 2014 - 4:44pm
Press release

Charity urged to axe holdings in Palestine jails firm

The philanthropic body run by the world's richest person, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, today faced accusations that the charity is complicit in the torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees, including child prisoners.

War on Want and other campaigners slated the foundation run by Gates – whose net wealth exceeds £47 billion - and his partner Melinda for its stake in the UK corporation, G4S, which provides security services and equipment at Israeli prisons.

Demonstrators, including one wearing a Gates mask and another hooded behind prison bars (pictures attached), staged a protest outside the foundation's office in London's Victoria Street.

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As international rallies take place on Palestine Prisoners Day, activists contrasted B&MGF's objectives to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty with its seeking income through £110m investment with a firm that profits from violating international law.

According to Article 76 of the UN Fourth Geneva Convention, governments must not transfer prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.

Over 5,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli jails, including 183 children and 175 held under “administrative orders” – a form of detention without charges or trial used to hold people for indefinite periods based on secret information.

In 2012, on the eve of a mass hunger strike by more than 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners, War on Want partner Addameer and other Palestinian human rights organisations called for an anti-G4S campaign.

Universities, banks, charities and trade unions across the world have terminated contracts with G4S over its role in Israel's prison system, costing the company millions of pounds.

But G4S has refused to sever ties with the Israeli prisons authority.

War on Want senior campaigns officer, Rafeef Ziadah, said: “Through its shameful holdings in G4S, the B&MGF, the biggest charitable foundation anywhere, is legitimising and profiting from the multinational's complicity in Israel's military occupation and imprisonment of Palestinians.

“Along with many human rights organisations across the world, we urge the foundation to divest from G4S now.”

Randa Wahbe, advocacy officer at Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, said “Today in Palestine, thousands are taking action in support of the Palestinian prisoners.

“We call on the Gates Foundation to stand with the prisoners and their families and stop their investments in G4S. Development and aid foundations should not be complicit in war crimes.”  

Ramah Kudaimi, membership and outreach coordinator at the American coalition US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, said: "The Gates Foundation should be ashamed of profiting from a company complicit in Israel's grave mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners.

“Bill and Melinda cannot claim to be trying to help every person get the chance to live a healthy, productive life, while investing in torture and mass incarceration."

Mthunzi Mbuli, a campaigner with the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement in South Africa, said: "As South Africans, we painfully identify with the plight of the Palestinians in general and Palestinian prisoners in particular.

“When we see the Israeli imprisonment of our Palestinian comrades, we are reminded of how our mothers and fathers were imprisoned during apartheid.

“We hope the Gates Foundation does the right thing by divesting from G4S just as how several international companies and organisations during apartheid did the right thing by divesting from companies complicit in apartheid South Africa.”

CONTACT: War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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