Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alvarez & GGR lawyer make Commonwealth submissions

In a statement to the media, Equality Rights Group GGR has made known that founder member Felix Alvarez and Counsel for GGR, Hassan’s Barrister John Restano, acting for the Group, have made separate official submissions to the Royal Commonwealth Society regarding its draft Commonwealth Charter.
‘The Charter, building on declarations of Commonwealth values and principles made by Commonwealth Heads of Government since 1970, aims to enshrine a democratic and human rights framework for adoption across all Commonwealth member states. This ‘Magna Carta’, therefore, represents an important point of reference for all Commonwealth nations, amongst which is our country, Gibraltar,’ Mr Alvarez explained. ‘Importantly for Gibraltar, the definition and special needs of ‘small states’ (in particular with regard to the issues related to small Civil Society) are unsatisfactorily reflected in the Draft Charter and my submission brought this to light and agrees with Government’s response to the UK’s recent Survey on relations with its Overseas Territories with regard to the unsatisfactory support received by Gibraltar from the Commonwealth,’ Alvarez added.

‘As a Gibraltar individual citizen with a particular interest in issues of democracy and people’s rights on the Rock, and valuing the role and importance of the Commonwealth for Gibraltar, I felt an obligation to participate in the consultation exercise which the Commonwealth extended to all member State individuals and organizations. Equality Rights Group GGR also independently made a submission through the offices of its Counsel.’

‘While the Charter pronounces itself in high, aspirational terms on some of the best democratic and human rights values, it nonetheless falls short of empowering the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group with explicit and sufficient mechanisms to make the Charter a reality. Furthermore, serious deficits arise through the document’s failure to include the categories of sexual orientation, disability and gender identity within its stated list of anti-discrimination protections,’ Mr Alvarez added.

‘Such serious omissions, at a time when, throughout the Commonwealth, substantial minorities are increasingly calling out to their governments to address their needs, are lamentable and inherently incoherent given the fact that the Charter itself determines, under Article 23, that ‘silence on the part of the Commonwealth is not an option’. Nonetheless, and despite the political realities of the Commonwealth group of nations, it is at least to be hoped the consultation exercise will result in positive amendments to rectify the draft document shortfalls.'