Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Monday, May 26, 2008

Alvarez named European Coordinator by international Foundation

Equality Rights Group GGR has today confirmed that Felix Alvarez, the group’s Chairman, has been appointed European Coordinator for an internationally based human rights organisation.
“My work in Gibraltar will continue”, commented Mr Alvarez, “however it is true to say that responsibilities on the international front increasingly require my attention.”

For his part, the Director of the Beirut-based Foundation for the Defense of Prisoners of Conscience (Syria), Mr Wissam Tarif, explained that Alvarez “will contribute to the Foundation’s work in various ways. His main role, however, will be in strategizing our campaigns with the EU institutions in Brussels, and networking with other international and EU human Rights NGOs and foundations. Alvarez's credentials and standing across the whole spectrum of political and human rights issues, as well as his depth of regional knowledge and connections, will be a very real asset.

“In this role, Mr. Alvarez will be working closely with European politicians in order to augment EU external policy toward the Middle East focusing particularly on the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, exploring more efficient ways of making EU funds spent in the Middle East work in favour of EU policy goals.”

Mr Tarif ended by saying that “FDPOC and I are glad to have Felix on board our international team and we are looking forward to working with him in the coming weeks and months in London and Europe during the course of joint meetings with a range of policy makers, think tanks and Middle East regional experts.”

Mr Tarif, of Lebanese nationality, is both a staunch pro-democracy campaigner and a well-regarded political analyst with strong ties in regional diplomatic circles, as well as a known media commentator and writer. He has coordinated human rights issues within Arab political circles and NGOs, the White House and the European Union. He is a frequent visitor to London, Berlin, Brussels and Washington DC, and is considered a policy expert on Syrian affairs.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

GGR welcomes Court action and Council of Europe decision

“Nowhere is the ridiculous nature of discrimination more clear than in this local Court case”

Equality Rights Group GGR has welcomed the start of a hearing in the local courts today of a complaint by a lesbian couple against the Gibraltar Housing Department. (Photo by courtesy J. Bugeja, Gibraltar Chronicle).

“It is a measure of GGR’s commitment to reasoned change through our democratic institutions that not only have we worked – and will continue to do so – for legal and responsible change to come about through parliamentary and judicial routes in our community, but we will not cease from insisting on it,” Chairman Felix Alvarez said today.

“It is ridiculous and backward in this day and age in a situation of housing shortage that two people in a committed relationship should be required by government to apply for and obtain two separate housing units when they, in fact, wish nothing more than to live together. The only reason why the Housing Dept are refusing to accept to place one of the partners as a joint tenant is the fact that they are lesbian.

“Nowhere is the ridiculous nature of discrimination and prejudice more clear than in this case. It’s time government became reasonable, stop being on the defensive, and help create an atmosphere of responsible dialogue in order to lead to what the majority of people in Gibraltar consider today to be fair and reasonable treatment of sexual minority fellow citizens.

“As Chairman of GGR I have said it so many times that I have lost track. But I will not tire from repeating it: I am willing to sit around the table with government in a spirit of reasonable understanding.”

At the same time, Mr Alvarez took the opportunity to comment on the recent statement issued by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers regarding GGR’s complaint on age of consent legislation in Gibraltar.

“Statements from the Committee of Ministers are only published after consensus has been reached. The fact that the Committee clearly signalled that a change in the age of consent in Gibraltar must be effected in the ‘near future’ in order to make equality in consent between gays and heterosexuals a reality, is significant and welcome. It signals the UK’s clear endorsement.

“GGR is confident of information it has received that meetings between government and Foreign & Commonwealth Office officials have been taking place in order to reach agreement about the manner and timing of these changes. GGR clearly welcomes developments on this front and looks forward to further announcements. We shall, nonetheless, be keeping a vigilant eye on progress on this matter,” the statement ended.