Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We thank PDP for support on Whistleblower law

GGR says GSLP/Liberals have remained ‘silent on the matter’

Equality Rights Group GGR Chairman, Felix Alvarez, has today thanked the leader of the PDP, Keith Azopardi, for his Party’s swift support in the group’s recent call for introduction of Whistleblower legislation, “even though they did not have the courtesy to acknowledge GGR’s role in that recent initiative in their press release.”

“In contrast, we give credit where credit is due, and the PDP rightly points to the very particular requirements for Whistleblower protection in a community as small as Gibraltar, where Government is more ‘on top’ of citizens than in larger countries.

“It is for this reason, and due to the increasing experience that is being accumulated regarding the fate of individuals who take the trouble to stand up to alleged malpractice or corruption, that GGR, concerned as it is with the rights of citizens in our community, issued the call.

“We would, similarly, appreciate hearing publicly from the GSLP/Liberal Alliance, to whom our call was similarly directed, but who have remained silent on the matter” Mr Alvarez stated.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We call for Whistleblower and Anti Corruption Legislation

Alvarez says “a system lacking effective vigilance over corruption and malpractice is one we cannot have faith in”

“We should support not punish Whistleblowers,” says GGR

Equality Rights Group GGR Chairman, Felix Alvarez, has today called on the Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano and PDP Leader Keith Azopardi to make public commitments to the introduction of legislation to support Whistleblower and anti-corruption vigilance.

“I am happy to work closely with political leaders to look at possible statutory measures for adoption. The present Criminal Offences Act handling of corruption issues is no longer sufficient, and certainly the role of whistleblowers is an important extra that democratic societies today are building into their laws,” Alvarez said.

“Citizenship in Democracy is the slogan I work to as Chairman of this Organisation, and with the merest suspicion of corruption or malpractice goes a loss in ordinary people’s faith in politicians and in the system in general. Today, Gibraltar is no longer the small town society it used to be. It is a place awash with investment and project money. It is a country ever more complex. And without measures which restore faith in politicians and officials, it is difficult for the ordinary citizen to believe that there is an even playing field, an equality of opportunity, and a clean slate with regard to institutional even-handedness and non-abuse as well as transparency in the handling of capital and commercial opportunities,” he said.

“Corruption and malpractice occurs in every country, whether rich or poor, developed or not. In many of the most advanced nations, and in some of the most powerful international institutions this has been so emphatically recognised that clear and open measures have been adopted to combat corruption and protect whistleblowers. Acknowledgment of the reality of corruption is therefore the first important step we must all take.

“As things stand today in Gibraltar, those people who have the moral courage to stand up to denounce irregular practices cannot rely on official protection for the service of vigilance they offer society at large. Instead, they face the very real possibility of themselves becoming victims. They can lose their jobs, face long years of difficult and expensive court trials, and endure crippling suffering and loss to themselves and their loved ones. This is a huge injustice when, in fact, as a society we should be grateful to these people for acting with a conscience in the service of us all.

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.”