Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Thursday, September 14, 2006

We reiterate our call for the Courts to decide Ratali issue

Equality Rights Group GGR has today responded to a Government press release yesterday in which it is alleged that the basis for the demonstration regarding the treatment of the President of the MCA is “false” by clarifying its own position.

Felix Alvarez, Chairman, stated that he had “written directly to the Chief Minister asking for public clarification of the reasons for the decisions which had been made concerning Mr Ratali. A couple of days later, I welcomed the public clarification which ensued. Nonetheless, Mr Caruana omitted to say whether there were any public interest issues in this case which might shed light on the decision, despite my explicit request. He also omitted to explain why it is that a firm contract of employment had to that date still not been approved by the ETB despite, allegedly, many months in the offing. In the circumstances, the Chief Minister cannot be surprised to find that there continue to be motives for suspicion surrounding this situation. Democratic Governments do not respond in this manner."

“Additionally,” Mr Alvarez added, “the sudden decision to withdraw an existing visa-waiver for this gentleman fuels further suspicion that the management of the decision-making processes by public authorities, which under the rule of law have an obligation to act in a transparent and explained manner, has been calculated to thwart the possibility of this gentleman taking the matter before a court of law to decide whether Government has acted justly or not. There is no doubt at all in GGR’s mind that, technically, Government has acted within the letter of the law. But that does not necessarily satisfy the requirements of democracy when proper procedures or natural justice have not been followed. GGR's presence at the demonstration is not to shout “discrimination” and “victimisation” because we believe in establishing facts first and foremost before arriving at conclusions: it is to protest the manner in which this has been done and the way in which an individual is being prevented from having his case heard by a Judge when the actions of the Executive give rise to issues of propriety. We therefore protest at the discredit Government’s actions and style visit upon this community.”

“As a rights organisation, our concern is that Government should act fairly, provide proper reasons to an individual affected by its decisions and afford him the right to have his case heard impartially. None of this has happened and all of them should have - especially when just two years ago Mr Caruana told us that he believed “in a culture of human rights”. The deprecating manner in which Government refers to organisations in this community only underline a profound disrespect for different views in this society and a style of Government inconsistent with decent democratic values. Mr Caruana should honour Gibraltar by allowing Mr Ratali the opportunity to enter to appear before a Judge and have impartiality and not politicking decide.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Gibraltar politicians will just have to lump it!

Following the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice regarding Spain’s failed claim regarding the enfranchisement of qualifying commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar for voting rights in European parliamentary elections, Equality Rights Group GGR has also welcomed Spain’s failure but has reacted to comments by Government and other Parties saying that “once more it’s a case of do as I say - but not as I do.”

Whilst Spain’s case was obnoxious in its attempt to prevent certain resident citizens from being able to participate in a democratic process, no less so is the hypocrisy with which the Chief Minister and other politicians have “warmly welcomed” the result. “Were it not for the fact that they argue on human rights grounds and that they strongly object to the fact that Spain was attempting to prevent citizens from exercising their democratic rights and that this is precisely what Gibraltarian Governments have been doing all along themselves and continue to do to the present day, perhaps we might not be so averse to the unrivalled hypocrisy of their supposed moral stand on this matter. It is clear they play to the public gallery saying the things they expect people want to hear before an Election and failing to tell the full story of the European Court of Justice’s basis for their ruling.”

“For years, successive Governments have failed to implement a whole range of human rights in our country – this present Government perhaps taking the biscuit, the Oscar and all Olympic medals in this particular category. Additionally, British citizens "in British Gibraltar" continue to be denied a range of basic rights on the principle that because Gibraltar is a part of the United Kingdom and since British people in Gibraltar are therefore from the “same” member State, then those same British people cannot have the rights any other EU citizen would have in freely moving to Gibraltar because they are not members of “another” EU state, which is what EC law provides. This is sheer and undiluted two-facedness: arguing we belong to the UK when we don’t want to give British people in Gibraltar their EC rights and arguing we don’t belong to the UK when we want to obtain our own separate human rights! GGR has always put telling the realities and the truth ahead of all other considerations – whether the politicians like it or not. And on this occasion they’ll just have to lump it!”

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Let Ratali appeal before the Courts

Equality Rights Group GGR has today welcomed Government’s speedy clarification of its reasons for the situation which has developed lately regarding the MCA President.

Chairman Felix Alvarez stated that “Having established clearer Government’s reasons for their actions following a recent statement, it is only right that, in all fairness and in consequence, Mr Caruana should now give instructions to allow this gentleman access into Gibraltar for the purpose of presenting his due appeal before the Courts. Under the rule of law in any democracy, citizens may question the actions of the Executive and public authorities via the courts who will be responsible for impartially ascertaining the legitimacy of any such action. The fact that Mr Ratali has neither been given reasons verbally nor in writing, nor indeed afforded the opportunity to present his case to the concerned authorities is a factor which weighs heavily against the propriety of the process which has taken place and I publicly urge Government to review this aspect of their decision.”

“Failure to accede in this manner to what is a due process of law, may otherwise give grounds for public belief that the denial of entry into Gibraltar in this particular instance is designed to thwart what is a fundamental tenet of Gibraltar’s constitutional and moral framework and status, and I trust Mr Caruana will be keen to demonstrate the contrary,” Mr Alvarez added.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

We urge Government openness

In an urgent letter to the Chief Minister today (copied to the Deputy Chief Minister), Equality Rights Group GGR has urged Peter Caruana to openly address the issues surrounding the employment and immigration status of the President of the Moroccan Community Association in order to fully inform the public of any legitimate concerns on the matter.

Group chairman Felix Alvarez, added that “Government is there to do a job and that is to be respected, but its actions must be in accordance with the rule of law. In fairness to both Government and to the person concerned, I have urged Mr Caruana to take this opportunity to fully respond on the issues so that the voice of all sides will be heard. Democracy requires Ministers and public authorities to act in a responsible manner, ensuring that actions taken are done in a way which does not give rise to questions about the legitimacy of Government actions. It is of no service at all to Gibraltar for Government actions to be questioned as a result of lack of clear and valid reasons – otherwise citizens may well ask themselves “if it’s him today, will it be me tomorrow?” To date, the standard official response which has been given to what should otherwise be a smooth piece of bureaucracy in approving paperwork is fuelling suspicion as to possible underlying motives in this case. It is of no justice to Gibraltarian democracy for matters to proceed under such a cloak of unsatisfactorily explained processes.”


Peter Caruana, QC 4th September 2006
Chief Minister
No. 6 Convent Place

Dear Chief Minister,


The handling of the employment and immigration processing of the above gentleman’s status, as you know, is causing concern in this community. In particular, it is stated that approval of what is said to be a firm employment offer, with the attending immigration status requisites, is reported to be pending for many months now.

As a lawyer, you will be well aware of the importance of the principle of rule of law and the general requirement that justice not only be done but also be seen to be done. As such, whilst entrusted with discretionary powers to act justly and in the public interest, Ministers and public authorities are under a duty to act in a manner which does not undermine the legitimacy of Government actions before the public.

In view of the increasing concern being expressed given the, to date, shortness of public information as to possible legitimate issues which may underlie the present case, and in fairness to you as representative of Government and to the wider interests of Gibraltar at large, I would urge you to address this matter in a manner which sheds light on the delays being experienced by Mr Ratali. Failure to do so may, in our view, only add to continuing speculation as to possible underlying motives; and in this organisation’s view, this cannot be good for Gibraltar since belief in the legitimacy of Government is fundamental to our society.

As a human rights organisation, GGR urges you to take steps to inform the public not in the standardised manner to date (and if not in the detail, at least in the generality) as to any relevant public interest concern or other issue of import in this matter in the most transparent manner possible, failing which the citizens of this community may, in our view, reach conclusions which can only be damaging to our established belief in democratic principles. Again, in fairness to Government as well as to Gibraltar and to Mr Ratali himself I urge you to take this opportunity . I look forward to your earliest and most urgent response,

yours faithfully,

Felix Alvarez

Cc: The Deputy Chief Minister