QUESTIONS OF GIBRALTAR, GUAM, WESTERN SAHARA DISCUSSED IN SPECIAL POLITICAL AND DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE

27 September 2000
GA/SPD/184

QUESTIONS OF GIBRALTAR, GUAM, WESTERN SAHARA DISCUSSED IN SPECIAL POLITICAL AND DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE

27 September 2000

Press ReleaseGA/SPD/184

QUESTIONS OF GIBRALTAR, GUAM, WESTERN SAHARA DISCUSSED IN SPECIAL POLITICAL AND DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE

20000927

As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization)heard petitioners from Non-Self-Governing Territories this morning, both the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and the Leader of the Opposition in that Territory agreed that self-determination for their people was a matter to be decided by the people of Gibraltar alone.

Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister, said it was unhelpful for the Committee to approve, year after year, a resolution calling for dialogue between the United Kingdom -- Gibraltar’s administering Power –- and Spain together for their mutual convenience. Despite Gibraltar’s desire for dialogue with Spain, it was unreasonable to expect the people of Gibraltar to enter into such a dialogue without a structure that, by denying them a proper place at the table, prejudiced their substantive position and rights.

Noting that Spain and Gibraltar agreed on the need to decolonize the Territory, they disagreed profoundly on how that should be achieved, he said. Only through dialogue, good relations and cooperation with Spain could possible solutions be explored that were acceptable, primarily to the people of Gibraltar, but also to the United Kingdom and Spain. However, such dialogue must be structured so as to give the people of Gibraltar, as the primary interested party, a proper voice of their own.

Joe Bossano, Leader of the Opposition, said that neither Spain’s veiled threats of hostility to Gibraltar’s aspirations, nor the United Kingdom’s neglect of its Charter obligations, nor the Committee’s indifference to the people repeated calls for justice and recognition of human rights by the people of Gibraltar would deflect them from their path. The Committee was paying lip service to its duty under the Charter, while turning a blind eye to the connivance of two Member States putting their own national interests above the rights of a colonial people. Only the people of Gibraltar could decide their future -- not the United Kingdom, and not Spain.

He said the Opposition agreed with the Government that Spain had no say in the Territory’s decolonization and that it was a matter between the colonial people and the administering Power. On the other hand, it seemed the height of duplicity for the colonial Power to say that only one option for decolonization was open to Gibraltar, and yet to reject that option. It was tantamount to condemning Gibraltar to perpetual colonial rule.

Fourth Committee - 1a - Press Release GA/SPD/184 5th Meeting (AM) 27 September 2000

Ronald Rivera, Vice-Chairman of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, speaking on behalf of the Governor of Guam, noted the lack of progress on the Territory’s political status. Guam’s government was a subject government, and its democratic actions were relevant only within the boundaries provided by the laws of the administering Power. Those laws: set aside a third of the nation’s land for the administering Power’s exclusive use; reshaped the island to reflect multi-ethnic ideals, making the Chamorro people a minority in their own homeland; and gave local jobs to favoured defence contractors.

Those and other outcomes of the colonial condition had affected the Chamorro people deeply, he said. They were overrepresented in correctional facilities, among school drop-outs, in social welfare rolls and in cases of family violence. Such underdevelopment through subjugation, domination, and exploitation was a violation of fundamental human rights and contrary to the Charter. It should be addressed through an act of self-determination.

Regarding Western Sahara, a petitioner from Germany’s University of Kassel deplored a proposal –- included in the latest Security Council resolution on the issue -- that the Government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) negotiate a political solution. That abandonment of responsibility by the United Nations was a blow to international law and to the Organization itself. The lack of an enforcement mechanism in the Settlement Plan for Western Sahara could not be a reason to abandon the peace process, but rather a reason to establish such a mechanism.

A petitioner from the Comite para la Reagrupacion de Familias Sharauis denounced the POLISARIO as terrorists who claimed falsely to be the true representatives of the people of Western Sahara. The group had committed many atrocities, including torture, a fact that had been recognized by Amnesty International in 1996. Conditions in the refugee camps were bad and humanitarian aid had been diverted. The POLISARIO should be forced to cooperate with the peace plan, so that the self-determination referendum could be held as soon as possible with the participation of all.

During this morning’s general debate, the representatives of Ghana, Pakistan and Egypt made statements.

Peter Donigi (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, reported on a mission last year by a delegation of that body to the installation of the New Caledonia Senate.

Other petitioners this morning spoke on behalf of: the Government of the United States Virgin Islands; Association des Amis de la Republique Arabe Sahraouie Democratique; Peace for the Saharawi People; Federacion Estatal Solidarias con el Pueblo Saharaui; Department of the Presidency of the Government of the Canary Islands; and the Parliament of the Canary Islands.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 28 September, to continue its general debate on decolonization questions and its hearing of petitioners.

- 3 - Fourth Committee Press Release GA/SPD/184 5th Meeting (AM) 27 September 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its general debate including consideration of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Special Committee on decolonization). It was also expected to hear petitioners on the questions of Gibraltar, Guam, United States Virgin Islands and Western Sahara.

(For background information, see Press Releases GA/SPD/182 and 183 of 25 and 26 September 2000)

Statements

YAW ODEI OSEI (Ghana) emphasized that any progress in the decolonization process would depend on full cooperation by the administering Powers with the Special Committee on decolonization to develop a constructive programme of work. In that expectation, Ghana commended New Zealand for its continued formal and informal cooperation with the Special Committee and its ongoing efforts at preparing the people of Tokelau for self-determination. Ghana also urged other administering Powers to demonstrate similar commitment to the decolonization process.

An issue of concern to Ghana was the unresolved question of Western Sahara, he said. Ghana recognized the just rights of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence. The Settlement Plan, which had been accepted by both Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), was the basis of self-determination, and a free and fair referendum.

He expressed disappointment that the London meetings between the two parties, under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, James Baker III, had so far not been fruitful. Ghana appealed to both sides to show the necessary flexibility, accommodation and compromise to avoid a breakdown of the peace process. Ghana welcomed the Secretary-General’s suggestion that the parties propose specific and concrete solutions to the difficulties facing the implementation of the Settlement Plan, in order to help move the process forward.

SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said that, despite the significant progress made in decolonization over the past 56 years, people of colonized territories still looked to the United Nations for their freedom. He noted, therefore, with appreciation the crafting of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism to carry out the unfinished task.

He also noted a growing realization among administering Powers that freedom could not be denied to people indefinitely. Claims by some Powers, however, that the people of Territories had accepted existing arrangements and did not want to sever ties, could not be accepted without independent verification or a referendum under United Nations auspices. Administering Powers should, without reconditions, develop a realistic, case-by-case programme of work in cooperation with the

decolonization Committee. In addition, they should foster awareness of the right to self-determination in the Non-Self-Governing Territories; provide information as required by United Nations articles; abandon military activities in the Territories; help create stronger, more diversified and more participatory economies; and cooperate fully with fact-finding missions of the United Nations.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir provided a case in point, he continued. In those areas, 10 million people continued to suffer misery and repression under illegal Indian occupation more than half a century after independence was pledged to them by India and Pakistan at the time of independence. The Security Council had affirmed the Kashmiri people’s rights, through its resolutions, but those resolutions remained unimplemented by India. Instead, India had used brutal force to suppress the indigenous struggle for self-determination, using 700,000 troops, wide-spread killing, rape, attacks on villages, custodial deaths, arbitrary arrests, summary executions and disappearances. The resolve of the Kashmiri people however, had only hardened. In this case and others, the international community must make consistent and determined efforts to free the world of the menace of colonialism.

AHMED ABOULGHEIT (Egypt) said that the Committee should continue its work until the Declaration on decolonization was completely implemented. He supported a Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, assuming that the object was to actually end colonialism before the decade ended and not to call for a third such decade.

He called for the administering Powers to bear their responsibilities by adopting a flexible spirit characterized by realism, taking concrete measures that would help realize the aspirations of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories. He requested those Powers to allow visiting missions with full cooperation and support. And he hoped that the Powers would provide all information required by the United Nations Charter and to respect the rights in their total sovereignty and control over their natural resources.

He noted that a year had passed since the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) had been established, allowing the exercise of the will of people in that territory. That process would not have reached that stage, he said, if the then President of Indonesia had not taken steps to allow the referendum to be held. The ties between Indonesia and East Timor, and Indonesia and the United Nations should be enhanced.

Some progress, he added, had been achieved in Western Sahara. He looked forward to seeing the process advance in accordance with all previous agreements. Egypt had been in the forefront of countries that worked to end colonialism in its region and Africa and would continue to work with the Committee to end colonialism in the 17 countries still on the list.

PETER DONIGI (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, reported on his attendance, as the head of a mission of that body, at the installation of the Senate of New Caledonia in 1999. The success of that visit owed a great deal to the constructive efforts of all parties to the Noumea Accord.

He said that the mission to New Caledonia was reflected in the part of the Special Committee’s report (document A/55/23 Part III) concerning the draft resolution on that Territory. While the mission was in New Caledonia, it had noted the presence of a mission from the South Pacific Forum, led by officials from Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

PETER CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said Spain and Gibraltar agreed on the need to decolonize the Territory, but disagreed profoundly on how that should be achieved. While it was United Nations doctrine that decolonization entailed the principle of self-determination, Spain asserted that Gibraltar must be decolonized, not pursuant to that principle, but by a principle of territorial integrity. International law recognized no such principle. The International Court of Justice had stated in the case of Western Sahara that “even if integration of the territory was demanded by an interested State, it could not be had without ascertaining the freely expressed will of the people -– the very sine qua non of all decolonization”.

Refuting Spain’s assertion of a special United Nations doctrine relating to “colonial enclaves”, he reiterated that self-determination was the universal principle applicable to all colonized territories. Spain’s assertion that the application of self-determination would breach its territorial integrity and national unity had no application to the decolonization of Gibraltar by the exercise now of Gibraltarians’ right to self-determination. Any breach of Spain’s territorial integrity had occurred 296 years ago.

He said Gibraltar enjoyed a very large measure of self-government through its own elected Government and Parliament. The Government of Gibraltar was not afraid of, and positively sought, dialogue, good relations and cooperation with Spain. Only in that way could the possible acceptable solutions be explored, primarily to the people of Gibraltar, but also to the United Kingdom and Spain. However, dialogue about Gibraltar must be structured so as to give Gibraltarians, as the primary interested party, a proper voice of their own.

It was, therefore, unhelpful, he said, for the Committee to approve, year after year, a resolution calling for dialogue between the United Kingdom -- Gibraltar’s administering Power -– and Spain together for their mutual convenience. It was hoped that the Committee would appreciate and understand that, despite Gibraltar’s desire for dialogue with Spain, it was not reasonable to expect Gibraltarians to do so without a structure which, by denying them a proper place at the table, prejudiced their substantive position and rights. Gibraltar appealed for the inclusion in the annual resolution of a call for dialogue structured in a manner to include the representatives of Gibraltarians in their own right and with their own voice.

RONALD RIVERA, Vice Chairman of the Guam Commission on Decolonization, speaking on behalf of the Governor of Guam, said that self-government in the remaining Territories was best achieved by having the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories become engaged in meaningful discourse under the oversight of the Special Committee.

He reaffirmed the 2 February 2000 petition of Governor Gutierrez and others to the Special Committee and expressed his desire that the discussions on

the Question of Guam, under this new process, begin soon. It was one the more difficult questions on the Committee’s roster, but the people of Guam were already a half century behind the intents of the United Nations Charter; any action would not be considered too soon for them. Even a 6 June 2000 letter to the President of the United States from the Chairman of the Senate Committee with oversight of Guam noted the lack of progress on Guam’s political status.

Guam’s government was a subject government. Its democratic actions were relevant only within the boundaries provided by the laws of the administering Power. Those laws: set aside a third of the nation’s land for the administering Power’s exclusive use; reshaped the island to reflect multi-ethnic ideals, making the Chamorros people a minority in their homeland; and gave local jobs to favored defence contractors. They also directed a third of the island’s education and health budgets to transitory immigrants and imprisoned native activists.

Those and other outcomes of the colonial condition had, he said, affected the Chamorro people deeply. They were overrepresented in correctional facilities, on probation, school drop-out and social welfare roles, and in cases of family violence. Such underdevelopment though subjugation, domination, and exploitation were, as pointed out in Resolution 2625 (XXV), a violation of fundamental human rights and contrary to the Charter. It needed to be addressed through an act of self-determination. He was pleased with the language of the relevant draft resolution, and welcomed new initiatives that could bring together the interested parties and advance the goal of self-government for Guam.

CARLYLE CORBIN, representing the Government of the United States Virgin Islands, addressed the agenda item relating to implementation of the decolonization Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and other associated institutions.

He said that a recent Caribbean regional study had indicated that only seven agencies had provisions necessary for the participation of the small island Territories. The number of Territories participating in the programmes of United Nations bodies remained insufficient. Requests by the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, as well as from Member States, for relevant information had brought only a few results.

In response to earlier requests from the Economic and Social Council, he said, only the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had responded. Overall, there was not sufficient information to allow the Fourth Committee to examine the agenda item. That question should be included on the agenda of the proposed meeting between the Special Committee and the Economic and Social Council.

He said that the reluctance of some Member States to give priority to the agenda item might be caused by the view that it was perceived as a political, rather than an economic and social issue. A 1991 resolution on assistance to small island States had resulted in consensus, since it had been clearly

understood that the aim was to promote social and economic development in those countries. There were an insufficient number of other agenda items designed to consider assistance to the small island Territories.

Noting the frequent references in resolutions to tax shelters and financial services in the small island Territories, he said there was no shield to protect those Territories from the vagaries of globalization, and their economies were just as vulnerable as those of other developing countries.

He said recent decisions of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council had shown considerable success in the goal of increasing participation by the small island Territories in United Nations programmes. Both organs had granted observer status to Territories that had become associate members of the United Nations regional economic commissions.

JOE BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, said the sole responsibility for the Territory’s decolonization and for the full recognition of its people’s right to self-determination rested squarely on the colonial Power, as in every other colonial situation. The Opposition agreed with the Government that Spain had no say in the Territory’s decolonization and that it was a matter between the colonial people and the administering Power. The Opposition was currently participating in a parliamentary select committee to produce a consensus constitution which, when accepted by the people in a referendum, would constitute the exercise of their right to self-determination. It would be an act of decolonization, permitting the removal of Gibraltar from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

According to the United Kingdom, he said, all its colonies except Gibraltar were entitled to exercise all the options for decolonization. The colonial Power claimed that Gibraltar’s right to self-determination was constrained by that Power’s treaty obligations and that it rejected the option of Gibraltar’s integration with the United Kingdom. It seemed the height of duplicity for the colonial Power to say that only one option for decolonization was open to Gibraltar, and yet to reject that option. It was tantamount to condemning Gibraltar to colonial rule in perpetuity.

He said that neither Spain’s veiled threats of hostility to Gibraltar’s aspirations, nor the United Kingdom’s neglect of its Charter obligations, nor the Committee’s indifference to Gibraltarians’ repeated calls for justice and recognition of their human rights would deflect them from their path. The Committee was paying lip service to its duty under the Charter, while turning a blind eye to the connivance of two Member States putting their own national interests above the rights of a colonial people. Only Gibraltarians could decide their future -- not the United Kingdom, and not Spain.

REGINE VILLEMONT, Secretary-General of the Association of Friends of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, said that the hardening of the Moroccan position came at the moment the complex preliminary work of identification was completed. Instead of galvanizing the resolution of the United Nations against the bad faith of one of the parties involved in the agreement, the Moroccan retrenchment had the effect of generating the temptation to abandon the Settlement Plan and the referendum.

She asked whether the United Nations, which in the recent past stood by powerlessly as horrifying massacres occurred, could run the risk of new violence in Western Sahara. Advancement of the Settlement Plan according to all previous agreements must be furthered by all means available to the United Nations, whether Morocco liked it or not. The identification process, already well advanced, must be brought to its completion as the indispensable condition for holding a free and orderly referendum. Time was running out for a peaceful solution to the question, as the POLISARIO has already exhausted all peaceful means to have the rights of the Saharawi People respected.

MARGOT KESSLER, of the European Parliament, said that since December 1999 the reports of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara underlined difficulties more than progress, and in July there were suggestions that the conflict could be settled by other means than the referendum of self- determination. Those developments suggested that the United Nations might withdraw from its obligations in the region. That possibility, as well as the Moroccan obstructions to the peace plan, had caused deep concern in the European Union. The United Nations must uphold respect for international law. In 1975, the International Court of Justice had already ruled that Morocco had no legal claim on the territory of Western Sahara.

The danger of the ceasefire breaking down was real, she said, if the referendum process was further delayed. Morocco had renewed its military installations on the wall and had been recruiting more troops. It had used its extra time to bring in Moroccans to create a 7 to 1 majority against the Saharawis. The human rights situation was of great concern. Persons had disappeared for long periods and the security forces had arrested many. There were reports of torture and long-term imprisonment. The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara seemed to be unable, or not willing, to protect the Saharawis.

In addition, she said, living conditions had become desperate. The bloody events of September 1999, with its participation of Moroccan settlers supported by armed militia, presented parallels to East Timor. The refugees in the four camps, despite claims by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were malnourished and lacked essential supplies. She also drew attention to the plight of Moroccan prisoners of war and called for the earliest repatriation of all remaining prisoners of war. Finally, she reminded the Committee of the large investment the United Nations had made in ending the conflict in Western Sahara, and the strong support pledged by the European Parliament for efforts to complete the process. Only a solution respecting the rights of the Saharawi people to self-determination would allow for the people of the region, including the Moroccan people, to create a future of peace and stability.

CARMELO RAMIREZ MARRERO, Federacion Estatal de Instituciones Solidarias con el Pueblo Saharaui de España, said that the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence had been prevented by the Spanish Government, which had facilitated the illegal occupation of Western Sahara by the armies of Morocco and Mauritania. The subsequent armed conflict between the POLISARIO and Morocco, from 1975 to 1990, had resulted in the deaths of hundreds

of thousands of people and the squandering of millions of dollars, an especially serious consequence given the unbearable condition of the African continent.

A resolution to the conflict had seemed at hand in 1992, when the United Nations had set up a mission to organize a self-determination referendum for Western Sahara. However, eight years had passed and the problem had not been solved. The situation could explode into armed conflict. The United Nations was at a crossroads. It should either adopt the necessary political and economic measures to persuade Morocco to remove obstacles to the referendum, or accept responsibility for the resumption of armed conflict in Western Sahara and the consequent loss of faith in the Organization.

WERNER RUF, University of Kassel, Germany, noted that the process of identifying prospective voters for the referendum was blocking the peace process, because Morocco was repeatedly trying to introduce new groups of applicants. In September 1997, a basic agreement had seemed to be reached on the basis of negotiations mediated by James Baker III, Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General. But, by the end of 1999, Morocco had presented some 139,000 appeals against the findings of the Identification Commission.

He said that a decisive new element in the Secretary-General’s report of 31 May 2000 (document S/2000/131) was the proposal that the two parties negotiate a political solution, a proposal that had been taken up in the latest resolution of the Security Council on the Western Sahara issue. Should a people’s right to self-determination, one of the basic elements of the United Nations Charter, be handed over to two parties without a mandate from the people concerned? he asked

That abandonment of responsibility by the United Nations was a blow to the principles of international law and to the Organization itself, he said. The United Nations and its Security Council were undermining the Charter and creating a dangerous precedent for the Organization’s future role in conflict resolution. The Settlement Plan’s lack of an enforcement mechanism to ensure respect for the referendum’s results must not be used as a reason to abandon the peace process. Rather, it must be a reason to establish such a mechanism.

GAJMOULA EBBI, President of the Committee for the Resettlement of Saharawi Families, said POLISARIO was a group of terrorists who falsely claimed to be the true representatives of the people of Western Sahara. That group had committed many atrocities, including torture, a fact that had been recognized by Amnesty International in 1996. Since the terrible events of 1988, many Saharawis decided to flee from the attitude that human beings had no value. She called on delegations that supported POLISARIO to find out the actual truth.

She said conditions in the refugee camps were bad. Humanitarian aid had been diverted. POLISARIO had changed the image of the Saharawi into that of a beggar people. They were not elected by the people and continued to laugh at the peace plan that cost so much effort, denying the participation of people who had the right to vote in the referendum. She thanked humanitarian organizations, and requested that they make sure aid reached the most vulnerable people. She called on the Committee to help terminate the suffering of those people. The POLISARIO should be forced to cooperate with the peace plan, so

that as soon as possible the referendum on self-determination could be held with the participation of all.

JULIO BONIS ALVAREZ, Councilor of the Department of the Presidency, Government of the Canary Islands, said that the Canary Islands suffered the consequences of the neighbouring conflict between the POLISARIO and Morocco. Some fisherman, for example, had been shot at sea in the crossfire. The whole region lay in a very sensitive position and its further destabilization would be dangerous. The ceasefire, he said, could break down for many reasons, which would have disastrous consequences. It was, therefore, essential that the question be settled by peaceful means.

The only solution, he said, was the one that had been established by the United Nations before hostilities began; that is, a referendum of self- determination and the completion of the United Nations Settlement Plan. The Autonomous Government of the Canary Islands, within the State of Spain, had developed good relationships with both Morocco and the Saharawis and wanted to maintain them. The new King of Morocco had given signs of a willingness to make important changes and needed the support of the international community, especially neighbouring countries. Spain has already shown support to the dispositions of the new King. Representatives of the Canary Islands have had occasion for dialogue with Saharawis as well.

He called for an acceleration of efforts to complete the referendum process. In that context, he offered the support of the people of the Canary Islands. He reiterated their offer to the parties involved that the Islands be used as a meeting place, because of their proximity to the conflict and their friendly relations with both parties. To avoid more suffering, the moment to take more flexible positions had arrived.

ELFIDIO ALONSO QUINTERO, Deputy in the Parliament of the Canary Islands, said there could be no solution to the Western Sahara dispute other than that stipulated by the United Nations. That meant a self-determination referendum to be held under the provisions of the Settlement Plan. The United Nations had tried as much as possible to achieve that goal, despite the dishonest attitude of one of the parties.

Stubbornness and intransigence by the two parties would mean a return to war, he said. The Western Sahara situation would then have returned to the stage at which it had been when Spain had, in a cowardly and highly irresponsible manner, given up the Territory. Because of that irresponsibility, Spain felt guilty, which was why King Juan Carlos had called upon both parties a few days ago to spare no effort in resolving the dispute.

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For information media. Not an official record.