Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The chief minister of Gibraltar, Peter Caruana, last week appeared yet again before the UN’s Fourth Committee that deals with decolonisation. Also in New York was the former chief minister and leader of the GSLP, Joe Bossano, who insists on making his own presentation.

This of course always annoys Caruana beyond belief and for once I share his ire because I take the view that if a Rock with 30,000 residents cannot speak with one voice before the UN on such a key issue then its very argument is damaged.

When the President of the USA speaks at the UN he does so for all the American people. Likewise so do the presidents and prime ministers of the European countries for their peoples - so why should Gibraltar be different? After all the chief minister is the duly elected leader of the Rock’s government.

Mind you there is a precedent for Gibraltar sending politicians of different political views to address the UN. Back in 1964 Sir Joshua Hassan was the chief minister of Gibraltar’s legislature and leader of the AACR. He went to New York to address the Committee of 24 (which is also dedicated to decolonisation) along with the independent leader of the Opposition, P J Isola. However in that instance the two eminent lawyers were singing from the same hymn sheet and both returned home to a tumultuous welcome in John MacKintosh Square – a scenario hard to imagine Caruana and Bossano sharing.

Interestingly I understand the delegation told the UN that whereas Gibraltar was indisputably a Crown Colony of Great Britain, it was one in which the evils of colonisation no longer existed, and one which was on the verge of achieving self-government. This would strike me as being the same message that subsequent chief ministers carried to the UN over the next 25 years!

I bring you some of the key parts of the Chief Minister’s speech that refer to the Treaty of Utrecht and how this long abandoned document colours both Spain’s relations with the Rock but also the UN’s own treatment of Gibraltar to this day.

Chief Minister Peter Caruana:

“Spain says that a Treaty of 1713 that is now defunct and ignored in every other respect, has been condemned to the dustbin of early 18th century history and violates the principles of the Charter, nevertheless has the effect in the 21st century that the people of my small country, Gibraltar, uniquely, do not enjoy the right to self determination. Put another way: Spain asserts that the political future of my country and its people should be negotiated, decided and imposed upon it by others.

“Pursuant to this remarkable position for this day and age, Spain asserts that our decolonisation can only be brought about by means of the transfer of our Sovereignty by the United Kingdom (who you still list as our so called administering power) to Spain, over our heads, contrary to and regardless of our wishes, and negotiated bilaterally between them. All as if we had no rights and our wishes counted for nothing.

“Spain further claims to associate you all with this anachronistic approach by alleging that the doctrine of the UN reflected in General Assembly Resolutions of the 1960s requires this to be so.

“We in Gibraltar do not agree with this. We will never do so. Nor am I aware of a single reputable international lawyer who is capable of objectivity in the issue of Gibraltar, who believes that the Spanish position is sustainable in international law, including the very UN doctrine that Spain tries to invoke. Little wonder then that our suggestion that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion is not accepted by Spain.

“As members of the free, democratic world, and subscribers to modern principles of human and political rights, we in Gibraltar believe that the political future of Gibraltar can only be decided or determined by us in accordance with our freely expressed wishes. The contrary view, that our future must be decided by others and imposed on us against our will, is not compatible or consistent with basic principles and values of democracy and human (including political) rights.

“At the heart of the contrary view lies one fatal misconception of principle and one distortion of fact propagated with a view to invoking an inapplicable principle. The misconception of principle is the failure to understand that the Sovereignty of Gibraltar is neither the United Kingdom’s to give away, nor Spain’s to demand by reference to a wholly unrealistic and unviable desire to return the map of the world to what is was 305 years ago, ignoring subsequent democratic, human rights and international legal principles! It is as if Spain thinks that mankind has stood still during the last 305 years, for her benefit in the matter of Gibraltar.

“The distortion of fact (to attempt to apply the UN Charter principle of territorial integrity to the case of Gibraltar) is to ignore the fact that Gibraltar is not part of Spain, and therefore our decolonisation by self determination could not and does not disintegrate Spain’s territorial integrity, rendering that particular principle entirely inapplicable to our case.

“No competent international lawyer concerned to uphold their reputation will argue that it is possible under the UN Charter to decolonise a listed Non Self Governing Territory other than by the application of the principle of self determination. And no democrat should be willing to argue that either.

“Mr Chairman, since the Special Committee on Decolonisation has taken to
fabricating extraordinary rules which are unsustainable in international law and UN Doctrine, such as the suspension of self determination principles to territories affected by a sovereignty dispute (of course, under pressure from states that are sovereignty claimants!), we have been forced to bypass the Special Committee and secure our decolonisation by other means.

“In doing so we have relied on General Assembly Resolution 2625 of 24 October1970, in which a fourth decolonisation method is recognised as acceptable, namely, “any status suitable to its circumstances that is freely determined by the people of a territory in an act of self determination”.

“Mr Chairman, nobody who visits Gibraltar and observes its society and self government can objectively think that Gibraltar, in reality, remains a colony. The decolonisation of Gibraltar is no longer a pending issue. It has already happened in practice and in law by virtue of our new Constitution.”

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