November 24, 2015
Today the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has launched a legal case against the Co-operative Bank on the grounds of discrimination.
Last month, PSC’s account was closed by the Co-operative Bank which cited “the Bank’s risk appetite” for the closure and has refused to elaborate further.
Another 20[i] organisations working for Palestine – including a number of PSC branches – have also had their accounts closed or denied.
PSC and its legal team believe the decision is discriminatory and contravenes the Equality Act 2010. PSC has today initiated legal proceedings against the Bank.
ITN solicitors, acting on behalf of PSC, state the Co-operative Bank’s “failure to provide any reasons for the closure of PSC’s account, which has been compounded by your failure to provide appropriate disclosure, leads to the conclusion that the decision to close the account is based on:
- Our client’s cogent belief in Palestinian rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return, and to oppose Israel’s occupation and violations of international law.
- The nationality or religion of the Palestinian people.”
Therefore the decision to close PSC’s account is “contrary to sections 13 and 29 of the [Equality] Act ”.
ITN solicitors said: “Our clients have been refused banking services, without any reason or an opportunity to provide representations. Our clients have therefore sought a full explanation from the Co-operative. It appears that the decision was taken because of PSC’s support for Palestine. A decision based on active support of Palestinian causes – or on the nationality or religion of the Palestinian people – would be discriminatory. It is in the wider public interest to ensure that banks are held to account for their decision making processes; a bank cannot be above the law by virtue of its status.”
Sarah Colborne, PSC’s Director said “Many people and organisations choose to Bank with the Co-operative because it markets itself as an ethical bank. But in deciding to close down the accounts of those working for or in Palestine it is clear the Co-op Bank has turned its back on its ethical principles.
“The Co-operative Bank is very good at professing its ethical principles. It has a glossy 27 page document which proclaims it believes in ‘acting with honesty and transparency… treating customers fairly, [and] promoting human rights and equality’. It is very hard to see any evidence of these principles today. Instead it has closed the accounts of those working for human rights and equality for Palestine, offering no honest or transparent explanation – only the banking jargon of ‘risk appetite’.
Sarah continued “PSC and our members are angry and disappointed at the Co-operative Bank which has turned its back on the ethical principles which drew so many of us to open accounts there in the first place. And today we will be writing to our members telling them of the Co-operative Bank’s decision and asking those who Bank with the Co-operative Bank to move their accounts.
“It is quite clear that the Co-operative Bank no longer cares about human rights – the Palestinians suffer incursions on their human rights day in, day out at the hands of an occupying force that continues to violate international law. In the UK we have a great tradition of solidarity organisations coming together to stand against human rights violations throughout the world – this is something that the Co-operative Bank should support and not punish.
“But in taking this decision it appears that the Co-operative Bank has chosen to discriminate against those who are working for the freedom and human rights of those in Palestine.”
[i] List of local groups who have had their accounts closed or denied:
- Abergavenny PSC branch
- Abu Bakr Rauf Memorial Scholarship Fund
- Boycott Israel Network
- Bristol PSC branch
- Cambridge PSC branch
- Computers for Palestine
- Discover Palestine
- International Women’s Peace Service Palestine
- Liverpool Friends of Bil’in
- Norwich PSC branch
- Northern Palestine Solidarity Network
- Nottingham PSC branch
- Oxford PSC branch
- Plymouth PSC branch
- Saddleworth Women’s Scholarship Fund
- Sheffield PSC branch
- Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund
- West Midlands PSC branch
- York PSC branch
- Yorkshire Palestine Cultural exchange