Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Government will have to answer

Equality Rights group GGR has brought its Sex Offenders Register campaign to a close, according to a press release today. In a months long campaign, the group has repeatedly called on Government to bring in measures, including a Sex Offenders Register along UK lines, in order to protect children from sex abuse.

“After our initial signature collection in the central town area, we continued our efforts in the housing estates as promised. After duly removing names of un-entitled signatories we have a total of around 3,200. This represents a good percentage of Gibraltar’s electorate and, in normal circumstances, we would have continued the Petition exercise until a considerable further number of signatures had been obtained since it is clear that support for this campaign is wide and strong enough throughout Gibraltar to have made more signatures very possible. We would then have respectfully handed the Petition personally to the Chief Minister.”

“However, the deafness of this Government to citizens’ concerns does not represent ordinary circumstances. And though we hope and pray that no child should ever suffer in the future, if any cases of child sex abuse emerge in Gibraltar, Government and Mr Caruana specifically will have to answer morally for their total silence and lack of action on a matter which cries out for strong protection and no further delay. Too many months and too many years have already been lost in protecting our children against sex abusers! Government cannot claim they are unaware of the issues after GGR’s campaign. Government has been warned of exactly what is at risk here and have chosen not only not to react, but given the fact that they have been forewarned, they have actually opted to consciously do nothing and in our view their inaction reflects upon them. It is still not too late for Mr Caruana to save the day by announcing the establishment of a Sex Offenders Register in Gibraltar and supporting legislation now to protect our children, rather than later when it is time to cynically ask for citizens' votes!" the statement continued, adding that "Given Government’s interest in this matter, GGR as an Equality Rights group will be placing a 7p stamp on an envelope and sending Government the Petition by ordinary post so that the Chief Minister’s civil servants may bring it to his attention, thus reflecting a level of respect for the Chief Minister equal to that which he has lately been seen to provide ordinary citizens’ groups.”

Monday, February 20, 2006

GGR submits rights report to EU

Equality Rights group GGR has thanked the Disability Society, the Disability Movement and community individuals for their helpful cooperation and assistance in putting together the relevant sections of a 5,000 word report entitled “Rights in Gibraltar” and submitted to the European Commission via Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini and Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla.

“It was Commissioner Frattini who asked Chairman Felix Alvarez directly to develop the report during his recent visit to Brussels, and the final document deals in some depth and technical legal detail with four main areas of social rights as they affect Gibraltar: disability, sexual minorities, British EU residents and the role of NGOs.

“The recommendations of the Report are wide-ranging and address issues affecting the UK’s responsibilities to Gibraltar and the EU as well as others which GGR has taken a public stance upon and communicated previously through the media.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Praise for "special role of MEP Graham Watson"

Equality Rights group GGR made public today via the media copies of letters written by European parliamentarians to the heads of both GB Airways (franchisors of British Airways on the Rock) and Monarch Airlines requesting assurances that disabled passengers travelling to and from Gibraltar will receive exactly the same level of rights as in any other EU territory state.

“We want to take this opportunity to highlight the very special role that Lib-Dem MEP Graham Watson has played in all this. Not only was Mr Watson instrumental in ensuring GGR Chairman Felix Alvarez was able to meet with Commissioners Franco Frattini and Vladimir Spidla to bring the injustices of the recent EU air measure exclusion from Gibraltar to their attention, he has also been key in ensuring that the issues are followed through. First evidence of this is the sending of these letters.”

For his part, Chairman Felix Alvarez reiterated his gratitude for the “important role that Graham played in this scenario and, additionally, for the keen interest and personal support also received from MEPs Neil Parish (Conservative), Glyn Ford (Labour) and Michael Cashman (Labour). Together, and with Graham Watson’s coordination and follow-up, not only will these issues be followed through but also kept alive as they continue their pressure by planning for and presenting questions in both the European Parliament and at Westminster. It is with the help of MEPs of this calibre that we can work to bring Brussels closer to Gib!”

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

GGR calls for Judicial Review Fund

Equality Rights group GGR is calling for the establishment of a Judicial Review Fund to be set up as an independent legal charity or trust, according to a press release today.

Chairman Felix Alvarez stated that “It is fundamental to democracy that Government be subject to the review of the Courts in order to avoid the possible abuse of administrative power. Individual citizens are often impotent to curtail Government’s powers in a situation where it costs them far too much money to afford the court case and where additionally, in case of failure to win their case, they face enormous costs to be paid to the other side – which in this situation is no less a party than Government itself! In the UK there are organisations with funds set up in order to help challenge key issues which have an important effect on the rights of citizens. Without that help it is doubtful whether very many important legal advances would actually have been made. In Gibraltar we have no such resource and this is to the detriment of our society and to our freedoms. We have recently seen in the Heritage Trust and South District Association’s cases that they had to withdraw from challenging Government due to precisely this problem. GGR is aware of other cases which also require justice but the issue of money gets in the way and so it is that, in a society with a Constitution and a belief in democratic values such as Gibraltar, individuals just have no option for justice. Government, ofcourse, is aware of the inability of individuals and organisations to take up their issues in the Courts and this reinforces its position. The upshot of all this is that the present system just isn’t good enough and both leads to a very real gap in our system of redress and encourages Government to proceed in the near certainty that it cannot be challenged! It is time we did something to balance this situation by ensuring that justice is available to all citizens – and in particular when challenging the might of Government,” Mr Alvarez said.

“I am therefore calling on all individuals, associations and representatives of legal firms interested in furthering human rights in Gibraltar who wish to take this matter forward to contact me on gibgayrights@yahoo.co.uk in order to start exploring together the establishment of an independent and properly administered fund via an objective, independent and impartial body.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

GGR accuses Government of pre-Election panic

Commenting on the Chief Minister’s recent media statements regarding the Rosia Tanks campaign, Equality Rights group Chairman Felix Alvarez has said that “Whatever spin Mr Caruana may attempt to throw at the public on this matter, the facts speak for themselves: at no time during the past 10 years has Mr Caruana shown any real concern for providing housing for ordinary people. He has built only for the rich and the super rich! His only concern now is whether he stands any chance of being re-elected and for this he is willing to make the rest of us believe that it is ordinary citizens who are to blame for the lack of housing and not his own Government!”

“It is the easiest thing in the world for Government, with its significant financial, legal and media resources to turn around and blame a small group of individual Gibraltarians who have the strength of mind and character to stand up and demand transparency over a proposed building project of being selfish when it is, in fact, Mr Caruana and his Government who have for the past 10 years or so been selfish and politically self-interested by ignoring the needs of ordinary Gibraltarians for so long. Now they want us to swallow their story that their hastily drawn-up schemes will be affordable by ordinary Gibraltarians and that anyone who has the slightest question about them is almost an enemy of the people. It is clear this behaviour by Government has more to do with pre-election panic than a sincere and genuine interest in the needs of ordinary Gibraltarians. We very much regret that if Mr Caruana does not take the log out of his eye before telling others to remove their own speck of dust the people of Gibraltar will be more than happy to perform that task for him in the not too distant future! There is no hiding place for Mr Caruana on this issue: he has failed to deliver housing for Gibraltarians and is now trying every trick in the book to convince us to the contrary before asking for our votes!”

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

EU to consider Gib's unequal age of consent

The European Union is concerned at the discrepancy between Gibraltar’s unequal age of consent laws, according to Equality Rights group GGR. In a statement today, the group confirms that “discussions between the EU Commission and GGR have put on the table the whole issue of Gibraltar’s non-compliance with judgments from the European Court of Human Rights. Commissioner Frattini has expressed the view that such persuasive judgments are equally valid in one part of the European Union as in any other – including Gibraltar. GGR has therefore received assurances that the EU will be following up the tardiness of the Gibraltar Government in implementing the equalisation of this law on the Rock at the highest levels.”

For his part, Chairman Felix Alvarez has stated that “the EU’s reaction to this state of affairs is only natural given the fact that Mr Caruana’s desire to keep Gibraltar stuck in a backward time capsule with regards to the rights of Gibraltarian citizens is only looked at with dismay. We were told that the GSD would improve our international image instead, in our view, the facts tell a very different story.”