A formal OECD complaint has been lodged against multinational security contractor G4S for failing to meet international standards and committing serious human rights violations in relation to conditions and abuse of asylum seekers detained at the Manus Regional Processing Centre.
G4S was contracted by the Australian government to oversee management and security at the Manus Island Centre between February 2013 and March 2014. Over this period, the Centre was repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations including the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for breaching basic minimum standards of care. In February 2014, one detainee was killed and more than 60 others were injured in an outbreak of violence that is the subject of an ongoing Inquiry by the Australian Senate.
The complaint, made under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, has been submitted in Australia and the United Kingdom by UK NGO Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) and the Australian-based Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC). RAID and the HRLC are assisted by UK human rights law firm, Leigh Day. The OECD Guidelines are a set of Government-backed standards for responsible business conduct.
Executive Director of RAID, Patricia Feeney, said companies do not operate in a human rights vacuum.
“G4S Australia and its parent company in the UK have a responsibility under the OECD Guidelines not to cause or contribute to human rights violations. G4S cannot evade responsibility simply because those violations are sanctioned by the Australian Government,” said Ms Feeney.
The HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Rachel Ball, said G4S’ direct involvement in the outbreak of violence at the Centre in February 2014 was of particular concern.
“G4S’ locally-employed security guards participated in some of the worst violence against asylum seekers. In addition to the violence, the regime of indefinite, arbitrary detention on Manus is itself a violation of international human rights law and conditions under G4S’ watch were consistently reported to be cruel and inhumane,” said Ms Ball.
Martin Appleby, a former G4S safety and security officer and training officer, has lashed out his former employer’s practices.
“G4S’ training and risk management processes were woefully inadequate. The company must shoulder some of the responsibility for the human rights abuses suffered by asylum seekers as a result,” said Mr Appleby.
Keren Adams, a lawyer with Leigh Day, said the complaint should serve as warning to other private companies involved in Australia’s refugee detention regime.
“G4S’ contract to run Manus has ended but Transfield has stepped into its place and there is little indication that conditions at the Centre have materially improved. Companies that profit from the Australian government’s inhumane detention policies should be aware that they will also be held accountable for their actions,” said Ms Adams.