Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Caruana's Foreign Affairs Committee intervention: 'embarassing red herrings"

“The Chief Minister’s intervention before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee this week was embarrassing because of its misleading ambiguities,” Equality Rights Group GGR Chairman, Felix Alvarez (pictured left), stated today in a communique to the press.
“Once again, Mr Caruana has tried to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes by saying that the 2006 Constitution is a full and modern expression of the European Convention of Human Rights in Gibraltar. While this may be the case in purely legalistic terms, what is the use of such a status to the ordinary person facing the violation of his human rights if it means he has to trawl before the Gibraltar courts, mortgage his and his family’s life to be able to pay the lawyers’ fees, only to end up having to go through the whole thing all the way up to Strasbourg? The reality is that this situation would have been different had Mr Caruana accepted the request I put before him for full incorporation of the Convention into the Constitution. Instead, he consciously chose not to do so. The reason is clear: he does not wish to see citizens being able to have easily accessible and open human rights in Gibraltar.

“Whilst ,according to reports, Mr Caruana has told the Committee that Gibraltar is in the very same situation as the UK even after its passing of the Human Rights Act 1998, the reality is this: under the UK’s law, judges must make law ‘compatible with’ the European Convention. This is a status very close to incorporation of the Convention into UK law. However, under Gibraltar law judges only have to take European Convention decisions and opinions ‘into account’ in reaching their own judgments. “Taking into account” is not the same as making local law ‘compatible with’ the Convention, and whilst the Chief Minister may feel quite able to pull the wool over the general public’s eyes on legalistic details of this sort, eminent Parliamentary members are unlikely to fall for fishiness of such a red variety from Mr Caruana.

“The reality is this: in Gibraltar judges do not have to match the Convention as highly as in the UK. The difference to ordinary people is that they are far more likely to have their human rights addressed at local level in the UK than in Gibraltar, Mr Caruana or no Mr Caruana.
“On the age of consent,” Mr Alvarez added, “it would appear that, finally and at long last, the Chief Minister is beginning to see the light. During his intervention, he appears to have conceded that his cluthcing-at-straws last-ditch legal attempt to save face in the light of GGR's successful campaign by constructing a case based on an “objective reason” for denying equality in age of consent legislation is not likely to succeed. It is good that Mr Caruana is now agreeing with GGR as to the meaning of the European Court’s decisions and looks forward to government finally conceding defeat on this matter.”