Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has accused the Committee of 24 of ‘conspiring with Spain’ against the interests of the people of Gibraltar.
Mr Picardo, addressing the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation in New York yesterday, said Spain’s ‘spurious claims’ to Gibraltar’s sovereignty had influenced the Committee in an ‘entirely inappropriate manner’.
As arguments were made for and against Gibraltar’s removal from the UN’s list of 17 remaining non-self governing territories, the Chief Minister, in a powerful and passionate defence of the people of such territories everywhere, said the Committee was betraying the rights of the very people it is constituted to protect.
“And that betrayal will not be allowed by us to pass unchallenged or unnoticed,” he said.
Mr Picardo had began his address by congratulating the new Chairman of the Committee Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreño who recently replaced Xavier Lasso Mendoza.
“But let me not lull you into any idea that you should feel any sense of satisfaction in having achieved the Chair,” he quickly followed up.
“Our people are suffering today not the yoke of colonialism, but the suppression of their inalienable international legal rights as a result of the deliberate inaction by this Committee,” he said.
The Committee was established for a clear purpose, Mr Picardo reminded its members, adding that its mandate is to protect and promote the interests of the people of the non-self governing territories.
“You are failing spectacularly in this mission,” Mr Picardo told the Committee bluntly.
Earlier this year the Chief Minister had written to the Committee inviting it to hold its annual seminar in Gibraltar.
In a ‘frank and clear’ response detailing why the Committee would not come to the Rock, the Chairman of the C24 said that the alleged “territorial dispute” relating to Gibraltar prevents it from doing so.
That response, Mr Picardo said, confirms what he already knew: “That the spurious Spanish claims to the sovereignty of our land are in fact being allowed to influence you in an entirely inappropriate manner.”
“If Spain thought that coming to Gibraltar would persuade you of the veracity of her arguments, wouldn’t her Ambassador be urging you to come to the territory?” the Chief Minister said the Committee should ask itself.
“So isn’t it obvious to you that Spain knows that the reality on the ground in our small nation is entirely contrary to its pernicious and untrue rhetoric?”
Mr Picardo then challenged the Ambassador of Spain to explain why they purport to block the Committee’s visit.
Mr Picardo recommended that the Committee read the soon to be published ‘seminal judgment’ of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the case brought by the Gibraltar Football Association against FIFA.
That international court recently overturned Spain’s objections to Gibraltar’s entry into the organisation that governs world football.
The CAS found that there was no legitimate sovereignty dispute over Gibraltar and there is no pending legal dispute as a matter of public international law, Mr Picardo told the delegates at the meeting.
“In fact, it is fifty years this year since the UK challenged the Government of Spain to test its Sovereignty claim to Gibraltar before the International Court of Justice,” he said.
Half a century later, he stressed, Spain has still not submitted to an objective determination of the issues.
“That is not an anniversary for the Spanish Government to celebrate,” Mr Picardo observed.
“Five decades have passed and now it must be clear to you that Spain knows it would never prevail against us in a Court which fairly and objectively applied our rights under the UN Charter and the established principles of International Law.”
Having ceded Gibraltar by Treaty over 300 years ago, Spain now relies on the ‘pernicious collaboration’ of bodies like this Committee to ‘advance by stealth’ the claims it will not take to court, Mr Picardo added, as he highlighted the ‘flaws’ in Spain’s claims against Gibraltar.
As government minister Joe Bossano did just two weeks ago at a UN seminar in Nicaragua, Mr Picardo accused the Committee of not acting neutrally.
“You are in effect taking Spain’s side against us,” he said.
“That really is a stunning indictment of the way that this Committee is conspiring with Spain against the interests of the people of Gibraltar,” Mr Picardo said.
“But make no mistake about it: Spain is factually, legally and morally wrong in all the contentions it makes on the question of Gibraltar.”
“And for that reason she will never prevail in her misconceived, illegal and immoral claim to take our homes against our will.”
Mr Picardo, along with the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, had arrived in balmy New York City on Sunday evening ahead of the UN session that was pushed back at the last minute.
This was the fifth time that Mr Picardo had addressed the Committee and while some of the arguments had been aired before, with a potential Brexit looming the proceedings took on a new dimension.
Mr Picardo, in a strong warning against Britain leaving the European Union, highlighted for the Committee the threat to Gibraltar of Spain’s aggressive foreign policy.
Spain’s caretaker Foreign Secretary Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo has been vocal on the issue stating that Gibraltar would have to explore formulas including joint sovereignty in order to retain a link to the European Union in the event of a Brexit.
“That is political blackmail of the most infantile sort,” Mr Picardo said.
“We want friendship and co-operation with the people of Spain. But the people of Gibraltar said no to Joint Sovereignty in our referendum of 2002. By 98% we rejected Joint Sovereignty then. But that was obviously not loud and clear enough.”
“So let me be unequivocal so that there is no mistake or any further foolish repetition of this warped notion for the transfer of our sovereignty. Gibraltar is not for sale. The Gibraltarians will not be bribed. The Gibraltarians will never surrender.”
“We will never, ever be Spanish.”
Spain gave up Gibraltar “Forever” in 1713 in the Treaty of Utrecht and we have not changed and will not ever change our position.
“His Excellency the distinguished Spanish Ambassador should get his political masters a dictionary so they can look up “never” and “forever” and work out once and for all what we are saying,” Mr Picardo said.