THE BLOG

Foreign Office Defends G4S Presence at Human Rights Conference

17/06/2014 15:39 BST | Updated 16/08/2014 10:59 BST

Government officials spoke out on Friday, after it emerged that controversial corporation G4S provided the security at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The security company has been targeted by various human rights organisations due to alleged failings in the UK, South Africa, Australia, and Palestine. In March, three staff members employed by the firm were convicted with the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga, a detainee under their care.

The choice of security provider comes hot on the heels of Bill Gates' announcement that he will sell his shares in the controversial company, due to renewed pressure from human rights activists.

The hallmark event, which was attended by high-profile celebrities and charities, aimed to change attitudes towards rape during conflict. The conference also boasted a time-table of events dealing with the human impact of conflict more generally, which successfully prompted a discussion of these topics through social media .

However, little publicity was given to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's choice of security provider for the occasion, despite a great number of charities in attendance having released reports condemning the company.

Amnesty International attended the summit, but declined to comment on G4S' presence. Instead, AIUK pointed us towards their previous research in 2011, which described the security firm's conduct as "totally unacceptable" during their tenure as the Home Office's provider of choice for immigrant deportation.

A FCO spokesperson justified the choice in security for last week's summit in a written statement, claiming that refusal to let G4S bid for the job would have been "discriminatory". The department told us:

"The selection process for suppliers included a robust set of criteria based on the suppliers' capacity, capability and experience and financial due diligence. G4S met our requirements"

Many speakers and charity staff members were unwilling to comment on the choice of security at the event, but non-affiliated attendees were more forthcoming.

Grace Watt, 20, a Politics student at the University of Kent and volunteer for A Village In Syria, was grateful for the chance to attend the event but felt "bemused" by the choice of security.

"It is distasteful to have a company involved in so many human rights violations support the security of charities that actively condemn them" she said.

The G4S press office told us this matter involved the organisers alone, and refused to comment.

Footage from the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict is available to watch on the government department's youtube channel here.