19/06/2001
Press Release
GA/COL/3051



Special Committee on

Decolonization

4th Meeting (AM)


GIBRALTAR LEADERS EXPRESS FRUSTRATION WITH SPECIAL COMMITTEE


OVER TERRITORY'S DECOLONIZATION PROCESS


As the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries met this morning to consider the question of Gibraltar, both the Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition of the Territory expressed their frustration at the lack of action by the Committee in furthering the Territory’s decolonization agenda.


The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Peter Richard Caruana said there was still no sign from the Committee that it was ready to help the people of Gibraltar.  It had ignored the plea put before it, namely, that it should not endorse a dialogue about a territory in which the voice of the people of that territory was not represented.  The Committee existed to help the people of Gibraltar, not to adjudicate between the United Kingdom and Spain, he said.


The reality, he said, was that some Member State or other had some axe to grind with the Territories on the Committee's list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  To achieve the aim of eradicating colonialism, the Committee would have to break loose from excessive influences over its work by countries with interests in the those Territories.


Joseph John.J.Bossano, Leader of the Opposition, said Spain had repeatedly said that “we either stay as a British Colony or are placed under Spanish rule, which they define as the only way to decolonize us and which they claim is our doctrine”. If that were indeed the doctrine, the Committee would be perpetuating colonialism rather than eradicating it.


He urged the Committee to begin listening to the voices of Gibraltarians, as it had a duty to do, but had failed to do for 37 years.  “Or you can merely continue to encourage a discussion over property rights between the current administering Power, United Kingdom and the aspirant administering Power, Spain”. The second alternative had not advanced the prospects of Gibraltar’s decolonization one iota to date.  “And I assure you it will not do so in the Second Decade either”, he warned.


Spain’s representative said that recovering sovereignty over Gibraltar was an objective that her country would never surrender.  There was a conflict between two States:  the United Kingdom, as a colonial power, and Spain, on whose territory the colony was established. 


She said a clear, sound and unequivocal doctrine had been established in the United Nations on the issue of Gibraltar, based on three principles.  First, the United Kingdom must put an end to its colonial presence in Gibraltar.  Second, the decolonization of the Territory must be implemented by applying the principle of territorial integrity and not the principle of self-determination.  Third, the issue must be solved through negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom, which had been recommended by the United Nations since 1964.


Bryan Zammit, Chairman of the United Nations Association of Gibraltar, said the Committee was not here to please Spain and the United Kingdom, but to defend the people of Gibraltar and all the other Territories that were helpless against large superpowers.  "Do not let me return to my homeland with the embarrassing and frustrating impression that the Organization we strongly support in Gibraltar is totally incompetent, and plays to the tune of powerful nations and political interests", he said.  He urged the Committee to commence the decolonization process of Gibraltar once and for all.


Grenada’s representative stressed that it was not often that the Government and the Opposition spoke so precisely with one voice.  That should be of some concern to the Special Committee as it looked into the question of Gibraltar.  Both the Chief Minister and the Opposition Leader had, in a polite and diplomatic way, told the Special Committee that it had been derelict in its duties with respect to Gibraltar.  “This is a verbal lashing that perhaps we should take heed of”, he said.


The representatives of Papua New Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire also spoke, as did the Secretary of the Committee.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday 21 June to consider the question of Western Sahara.


Background


The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this morning to consider the questions of Gibraltar and Western Sahara.  It had before it working papers prepared by the Secretariat with regard to both Territories.


The working paper on Gibraltar (A/AC.109/2001/10) discusses political developments, economic and social conditions, consideration by the United Nations of the Territory, as well as its future status. 


On the question of Western Sahara, the working paper (A/AC.109/2001/12) details the Secretary-General’s good offices with regards to the Territory.  It also summarizes consideration of the Territory by the Security Council and the General Assembly, including relevant texts adopted by them.


Statements


PETER RICHARD CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said that since 1992 he had deployed many arguments before the Committee, none of which had ever received a response from the Committee or were reflected in the positions of the Committee.  He had regularly reported to the Committee on the situation of Gibraltar and had rebutted the position of the United Kingdom. 


A number of points had been demonstrated before the Committee over the years, he said.  First, Gibraltar was one of the territories on the Committee's list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, having been placed on it by the United Kingdom in 1946.  Since then, the United Kingdom had reported on the Territory to the Special Committee, under its obligation under Article 73 of the Charter.  Secondly, Gibraltar was unquestionably a colony.  It was not possible to decolonize a territory by any other means than that of self-determination.  There was no United Nations doctrine, as alleged by Spain, that Gibraltar should be decolonized by applying the principle of territorial integrity.


He had also demonstrated, he continued, how Spain had sought to distort the real meaning of territorial integrity.  Gibraltar was not now, nor had ever been, a part of the kingdom of Spain.  Its decolonization now would not bring about Spain's territorial disintegration.  It had also been demonstrated how in General Assembly Resolution 46/181 (1991), the United Nations had reaffirmed the inalienable right of self-determination for the peoples of all Non-Self-Governing Territories.


There was still no sign from the Committee that it was ready to help the people of Gibraltar to secure those rights, he went on to say.  The Committee always listened with great interest but then seemed to ignore what was asked of it.  It ignored the plea put before it, namely, that it should not endorse a dialogue about a territory in which the voice of the people of that territory was not represented.  The Committee existed to help the people of Gibraltar, not to adjudicate between the United Kingdom and Spain. 


Spain, he said, had claimed that Gibraltar was not a colonized people, because the people of Gibraltar were descendents of the colonizing Power.  In saying so, Spain was contradicting its own colonial history vis-à-vis Latin America.  It was a fundamental error to confuse decolonization with that of a territorial sovereignty dispute, which was a dispute over a piece of land by States.  They could not be confused or lumped together, as they raised different rights in favour of different parties.  There was no alternative to the principle of self-determination.


In order to enlist the support of the Committee, Spain always began its statements to the Committee with words of commitment to the work of the Committee in eradicating colonialism.  However, her words did not match her actions.  Spain was content for Gibraltar to remain a colony forever if necessary.  Its commitment was not to the principle of decolonization or to the work of the Committee to eradicate colonialism but to its own territorial ambitions.  That was because Spain confused decolonization with a territorial sovereignty dispute. 


He had attended the recent Caribbean Regional Seminar, held in Havana, he said.  While it had been a good seminar for the Committee, he regretted that it had not been a good seminar for Gibraltar.  In drafting the conclusions and recommendation of the Seminar, everything he said had been ignored, while what was said by the United Kingdom and Argentina were taken into account.  Therefore, he was forced to disassociate himself from the final conclusions and recommendations. 


Regarding the development of the Committee's work programme for Gibraltar, he said that the Committee had endorsed the extraordinary proposition that the mere existence of a territorial dispute meant that Gibraltar could not participate in the development of the work programme for the Territory.  The reality was that some Member State or other had some axe or other to grind with the Territories on the Committee's list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The Committee, to achieve the aim of eradicating colonialism, would have to break loose from excessive influences over its work by Member States with interests in the Territories. 


In Havana, he noted, the representative of Spain had sought to denigrate the worthiness of Gibraltar's cause by saying that Gibraltar had been targeting its criticism only at Spain and not at its colonial power.  It was not the colonial power that was hindering the process of decolonization, but Spain, which was discouraging the United Kingdom from moving forward on that path.


The Government of Gibraltar was not opposed to a properly structured dialogue with Spain to resolve the existing differences, he said.  He urged the Committee to make the following recommendations:  first, that no dialogue should take place between States on a problem regarding a territory without the participation of the government of that territory; secondly, the Committee should recommend dialogue between the United Kingdom, Spain and Gibraltar aimed at achieving a solution to the question of Gibraltar.  This should take into account the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, namely the inalienable right of self-determination.


LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada) said one could not but be impressed with the passion and eloquence of the Statement just delivered by the Chief Minister of Gibraltar.  He wanted, nevertheless to know when was the last time, if any, that the people of Gibraltar expressed through a referendum, their desire about their position vis-à-vis being a colony or attaining some other measure of self-determination?

Mr. CARUANA said that in 1967 the people of Gibraltar were given the opportunity in a referendum to express a choice, but that choice was between preserving links with the United Kingdom and integration with Spain.  They were not offered any other choice related to self-determination.  “We do not accept that our decolonization choices should be limited to those two options alone”, he said.


JOSEPH JOHN J. BOSSANO, Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Gibraltar, said he did not wish to dwell on the continued campaign of harassment of the Gibraltarian people by the Spanish Government, or on “the lukewarm defense of our rights” by the administering Power, the United Kingdom.  That, however, should not be taken as an indication of any improvement in the attitude of those two Member States.  Regrettably, he continued, Spain still did everything in its power to continue that harassment within the European Union, in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), before this Committee and at the seminars.


He said that at the recently concluded decolonization seminar in Cuba, the representative of Spain used the example of the United States military base at Guantanamo as the parallel for the situation of Gibraltar.  Absurd as that parallel was, what was even more significant was that it was the same example used in the 1960s before this Committee, by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs of fascist Spain.  Guantanamo was of course not on the list of territories recognized by the United Nations as having an indigenous colonial people with the right to self-determination.  Gibraltar on the other hand had always been on that list.


He said Spain had repeatedly said that as far as it was concerned, either “we stay forever as a British Colony or we are placed under Spanish rule, which they define as the only way to decolonize us and which they claim is our doctrine”.  “If that were indeed your doctrine”, he continued, the Committee would therefore be engaged in perpetuating colonialism rather than eradicating it.  “You would be guilty of the most flagrant repudiation of, the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the advisory opinions of the International Court of Justice, and the two cornerstone resolutions of the decolonization process –- 1514 and 1541”, he said.


The negotiating process, which the Committee continued to encourage between the United Kingdom and Spain, was not about furthering the attainment of a full measure of self-government of the people of the Territory, he went on to say.  It was about discussing the terms for resolving a territorial dispute as if there were no human beings in Gibraltar and no issue of human rights. 


He said that when Spain stated that the Brussels Negotiating Process was to restore its territorial integrity, what it was doing was promoting a breach of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and not respect for it.  While it was true that item 6 of that Declaration declared that any attempt to disrupt the unity and the territorial integrity of a country was incompatible with the Charter, Gibraltar’s attainment of a full measure of self-government would not do that.  If the loss of Gibraltar in 1704 affected Spain’s territorial integrity, then Spain itself legalized that position in 1713 by giving it up in perpetuity.


He went on to say that the Spanish position was that if the United Kingdom were to dispose of the Territory, Spain would have preference in buying it back.  It also quotes the Treaty of Utrecht as saying “that the preference of having the sale shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before all others”.  “Is that what we are, merchandise for sale”? he asked.  He said that in 1713, when Utrecht was written the slave trade was flourishing.  Was this the language of the new millennium, of the second decade for the eradication of colonialism or of respect for universal, inalienable human rights?


He said the United Kingdom had given Gibraltarians a solemn assurance that “we will not be placed under Spanish rule”.  “Whatever criticisms we may have of their performance in defending our rights, none of us doubt that they will honour this pledge”, he said.  In the intervening 37 years, Spain had sought to intimidate Gibraltar into not opposing Spanish rule.  They had failed miserably and would continue to do so.  In the twenty-first century, it did that country no credit to pursue the same policy.


What then was the way ahead?, he asked.  The Special Committee had been given clear guidelines on how to complete its work in the second decade.  All it needed to do was to apply those guidelines in Gibraltar’s case.  In declaring the Second Decade the General Assembly said it was guided by the fundamental and universal principles enshrined in the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  “I urge you to be guided by these principles”, he said.  How could this Committee do anything unless it accepted Gibraltarian proposals for decolonization as an alternative or, at the very least, in parallel with the Brussels talks between the United Kingdom and Spain, he asked. 


“You can begin by listening to the voice of Gibraltarians, as you have a duty to do, but have failed to do for 37 years”, he said.  “Or you can merely continue to encourage a discussion over property rights between the current administering Power, United Kingdom and the aspirant administering Power, Spain”. The second alternative had not advanced the prospects of Gibraltar’s decolonization one iota to date.  “And I assure you it will not do so in the Second Decade either”, he warned.


LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada) said his delegation had once again been impressed this time by the statement delivered by the Leader of the Gibraltar’s Opposition.  He noted that it was not often that the Government and the Opposition spoke so precisely with one voice.  That should be of some concern to the Special Committee as it looked into the question of Gibraltar.


He said there was no question that issue of decolonization had written a glorious history in the annals of the United Nations.  “ Yet, as we embark on a second decade, we should bring new thinking with respect to the concept of self-determination”, he said.  The outgoing Chair of the Special Committee, Peter Donigi, yesterday said the Committee should think about changing its modus operandi to “initiating things within and spreading them without instead of things being initiated without and spread within”.  


He agreed that there could not be any discussion between the United Kingdom and Spain on issues so important to Gibraltarians without including them in it.  Both the Chief Minister and the Opposition Leader had, in a polite and diplomatic way, told the Special Committee that it had been derelict in its duties with respect to Gibraltar.  “This is a verbal lashing that perhaps we should take heed of”, he said.


MR. BOSSANO said that in Gibraltar, they had always felt that people who had been former British colonies should “put themselves in our place”.  Independent of what Spain and the United Kingdom were doing, what was important was the relationship between this Committee and Gibraltarians and the response to the aspirations of the people of the Territory.  The reaction today was based more on frustration at the lack of progress over 37 years rather than criticism of the Committee.  That had led to the strong language used today.  In addition, “every man and woman in Gibraltar will give you the same message”, he added.


BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUÉ (Côte d’Ivoire), Chairman of the Committee, speaking in his national capacity, said he had listened carefully to what had been said today and sensed the frustration of Gibraltarians.  He assured them that the Committee was attentive to the problems of all of the populations of the Territories on the United Nations Decolonization list.


Coming as he did from a decolonized country, he wished to say that the question of decolonization was so complicated that it dictated that the Committee also work within a complex framework.  That was why it was not moving quickly and was instead advancing cautiously.  “Your questions and concerns, nevertheless, are of interest to us and we are doing our best to find ways and means to come up with a process of decolonization”, he said.  “Do not lose heart, trust the Committee and we will come up with a solution”, he added.


BRYAN ZAMMIT, Chairman of the United Nations Association of Gibraltar, said that the Gibraltarian people had always been used politically with neither the United Kingdom nor the Spanish Government taking into account the damage they had created morally, socially and economically to the Territory.  Last week it was revealed, in a debate in the Gibraltar Parliament, that the United Kingdom had not been pursuing matters with the priority it required.  The British Government had not been standing up for Gibraltar as it should and the Gibraltarians were unable to defend themselves because of their colonial status.  The administering Power fell short of taking the robust stand in defending the Territory's economic, social and political development, which it was obliged to do under the Charter.


The attitude of Spain and the weakness of the United Kingdom, he said, had created a climate in which the people of Gibraltar felt very much on their own.  The campaign by Spain was not just aimed at Gibraltar's economy but covered every sphere of life.  Only a few weeks ago, the national badminton association was banned from participating in an international competition in Seville, Spain. 


It was sad, he said, that Gibraltar's political leaders had been making the long and frustrating trip to the United Nations for so many years, only to be told time and again, that the question of Gibraltar was one that required a solution by the British and Spanish Governments.  The Committee was not here to please Spain and the United Kingdom, but to defend the people of Gibraltar and all the other Territories that were helpless against large superpowers.


"Do not let me return to my homeland with the embarrassing and frustrating impression that the Organization we strongly support in Gibraltar is totally incompetent, and plays to the tune of powerful nations and political interests", he said.  He urged the Committee to commence the decolonization process of Gibraltar once and for all.


ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) said that recovering the sovereignty over Gibraltar was an objective that Spain would never surrender.  Her country's claim included the Rock, ceded by the Treaty of Utrecht, as well as the Isthmus, illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.  That occupation had never been recognized by Spain.  Gibraltar was a colony established by one State within the territory of another State.  Consequently, there was a conflict between two States:  the United Kingdom, as a colonial power, and Spain, on whose territory the colony was established.


A clear, sound and unequivocal doctrine had been established in the United Nations on the issue of Gibraltar, based on three principles, she continued.  First, the United Kingdom must put an end to its colonial presence in Gibraltar.  Second, the decolonization of the Territory must be implemented by applying the principle of territorial integrity and not the principle of self-determination.  Third, the issue of Gibraltar must be solved through negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom, which had been recommended by the United Nations since 1964.  The General Assembly had invited every year, since 1973, the both Governments to hold bilateral negotiations to put an end to the colonial situation.


In that regard, she said, both countries committed themselves, by the Joint Declaration signed in Brussels in 1984, to begin a negotiating process on the future of Gibraltar, in which framework the issues of sovereignty and mutually beneficial cooperation would be treated.  Regrettably, the process had not borne any fruit so far, in spite of the good will and constructive spirit that Spain had demonstrated all along. 


The Spanish Government, she said, was willing to continue to work with the Committee in order to attain the objective of a world free of colonialism.  She hoped that the resolutions and decisions of the Assembly would be implemented.  Spain was willing to continue dialogue with the United Kingdom so as to finish the colonial situation that disrupted the national unity and territorial integrity of Spain.


PETER DICKSON DONIGI (Papua New Guinea) requested that the matter be adjourned a later session because he was in the process of finalizing a paper on decolonization, in which Gibraltar was among the territories addressed.  He would like to present that paper before the Committee continued its consideration of Gibraltar.


The Committee decided to continue its consideration of Gibraltar at its next session.


Western Sahara


Mr. DONIGI said that the Security Council would also be considering the report of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara.  In that case, he would prefer that consideration of that question be deferred until the Secretary-General had presented his report to the Security Council. 

Committee Secretary Mohammad Sattar clarified that the Secretary-General's report was due today but had been delayed.  In addition, the representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) had indicated that he was prepared to speak at the Committee's next meeting on Thursday. 


The Committee deferred its consideration of Western Sahara to its next meeting on the morning of Thursday, 21 June.


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