25 May 2001


Press Release



United Kingdom Present at Seminar for First

Time Since Resuming Dialogue with Special Committee

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

HAVANA, CUBA 24 May -- The principle of self-determination was not applicable to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the representative of Argentina told the Caribbean Regional Seminar to review the political, economic and social conditions in the small island Non-Self-Governing Territories this afternoon.

He said decolonization and self-determination were not the same things. Argentina had always maintained the principle of right to self-determination.  However, in case of Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the principle was not applied because the colonized people were descendants of Britains who had been sent there after the original inhabitants had been expelled.

Taking place from 23 to 25 May, the Seminar is being held by the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, also known as the Special Committee of 24 on decolonization.

To offer the present population right of self-determination would lead to the disruption to the territorial integrity of Argentina.  Resolution 1514 had spoken out against any attempt at disrupting the territorial integrity of a sovereign state.  In the case of Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the principle of territorial integrity prevailed over the principle of self-determination.  His Government was willing to negotiate with United Kingdom, including mechanisms to safeguard the current population.

Alejandro Betts, observer at the seminar, said the population of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands was not in any legal or sociological sense a nation or a people different from the British metropolis.  The Malvina people were English citizens transferred to the islands once the original Argentinian inhabitants had been expelled.  Self-determination applied only to an ethnic separate group.

The United Kingdom was for the first time present at a seminar since it had resumed dialogue with the Special Committee in 2000, the representative of that

Country said.  Her Government’s relationship with overseas territories was, among other things, based on principles of self-determination and mutual responsibilities.  Those principles were the foundations of a partnership, and her Government wanted to do everything possible to maximize that partnership.  A review of the relationship was provided in the so-called White Paper.  A number of initiatives had been taken up since the review.

The United Kingdom had, among other things, asked every overseas territory to set up its own mechanisms to review existing constitutions.  In consultation with the overseas territories, it had prepared a draft environmental charter and had commissioned independent experts to review the fundamental rights chapter of

constitutions for the overseas territories to be adopted as appropriate.  Her Government assisted the territories in reporting to the human rights committees.  There were some human rights issues raised during the seminar where the United Kingdom would like to see reform.  Her country had no desire to turn the territories into mirror images of itself, but believed that legislation of the overseas territories must comply with international obligations to which the United Kingdom was subject.  The case of homosexual rights was an example.

Her Government had also offered British citizenship to all British dependent

territory citizens.  That offer was made to redress a sense of grievance but did not imply a threat to the right of the people of the territory to determine their own constitutional relations with the United Kingdom and would not be a barrier to independence should that be chosen by the people.

Commenting on the statement of the representative of Argentina, she said her Government fully supported the right to self-determination.  The elected officials of the islanders had asked the Special Committee to recognize their right of self-determination.  The United Kingdom had no doubt about its sovereignty over the islands.

Joe Bossano, observer at the seminar, said that when the Committee of

24 first studied Gibraltar’s case in 1964 they had concluded that the provisions of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples was fully applicable to the territory of Gibraltar.  The United Kingdom at that had responded that it saw no conflict between the provision of the Treaty of Utrecht (1731) and the application of the principle of self-determination to the people of Gibraltar.

Spain had argued that questioning the applicability of the Treaty of Utrecht constituted the consideration of the validity or applicability of an international treaty, which exceeded the competence of the Special Committee.  The parliament of Gibraltar had repeatedly asked that the dispute be referred to an independent tribunal such as the International Court of Justice.

He noted that the elected parliament of Gibraltar was in the process of drafting a decolonization constitution which, when approved by the people in a referendum, constituted an act of self-determination and could result in the removal from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.  If the seminar in its

final report simply would repeat that the bilateral negotiations between United Kingdom and Spain should continue, it would have failed to live up to its challenge.

In an open and lively discussion following the statements, Peter Caruana, Chief Minister of Gibraltar said the people of Gibraltar were not Anglo-Saxons, but had come from all corners of the Mediterranean area.  Reacting to a remark made by Mr. Betts that non-indigenous people could not exercise the right to self-determination, he asked who exercised the right to self-determination in most South American countries, the United States or Canada if not the descendants of colonists.

On the question of Gibraltar he said the only issue was whether three lines in a 290 year old treaty, saying that if the United Kingdom gave up sovereignty over Gibraltar, it had to offer it to Spain first, were able to displace all other international laws.  When a bilateral treaty was incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter prevailed.  The treaty of Utrecht could not prevail over the rights of the people of Gibraltar to self-determination.  He reminded the seminar that that same clause also stipulated that Jews and Muslims could not live in the territory of Gibraltar. 

Other topics of discussion were the issue of American Samoa, the issue of invitations to the seminar sent through administering Powers to Non-Self-Governing Territories, the statement of the representative of the United Kingdom, and visiting missions of the Special Committee to Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Answering questions, the representative of the United Kingdom said each overseas territory should set up its own mechanisms to review constitutions.  As to the question what mechanisms her Country had used to know that some territories wanted to remain British, she mentioned the referendum that had taken place in Bermuda.  The dialogue between the United Kingdom and the Special Committee was of an informal character, she said.

Participants from Non-Self-Governing Territories complained that invitations asking representatives of their territories to attend the seminar had been sent through the administering Powers and had reached them by the whim of the territories’ governor or by other means.  Mechanisms needed to be found to invite elected officials from those territories, as governors were speaking on behalf of the administering Power.  The United Kingdom’s representative remarked that the administering Powers still administered foreign affairs for the Non-Self-Governing Territories, something which should be kept in mind when addressing that issue.

Participants in the discussion were: Eni H.F. Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Chedmond Browne of Montserrat, Roch Wamytan of New Caledonia, Carlyle Corbin of United States Virgin Islands, Walton Browne, expert from Bermuda, Phyllis Fleming-Banks, expert from Anguilla, Judith Bourne, United Nations Association of Virgin Islands, and Sergei Cherniavsky, the Committee’s Secretary.  

Representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Côte d’Ivoire (Vice-Chairman of the Special Committee), Ethiopia, India, and Syria (Rapporteur of the Special Committee) also participated.

The representative of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Riyad Insanally, explained the origins, purposes and membership construction of that organization.

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For information media. Not an official record.