7 October 2005
Representatives of Member States, Non-Self-Governing Territories, Petitioners Address Fourth Committee, as It Continues General Debate on Decolonization
Statements Focus on Questions of Gibraltar, Western Sahara, Guam
NEW YORK, 6 October (UN Headquarters) -- The questions of Gibraltar, Western Sahara and Guam were the focus of discussions this afternoon, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization issues, hearing from representatives of Member States, Non-Self-Governing Territories and petitioners.
On Gibraltar, Peter Caruana, the Territory's Chief Minister, said that everyone agreed that Gibraltar should be decolonized, including the Government of Spain. The simple issue at stake was whether such decolonization should take place in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the Territory's people, or by the colonial Power's handing sovereignty over Gibraltar to Spain through bilateral negotiations and against the wishes of those people.
He said Gibraltar had repeatedly urged the Committee to modify its annual consensus resolution on the Territory, which called for bilateral negotiations, the more so because there was, in practice, no process of bilateral negotiations under the so-called Brussels Process. Gibraltar welcomed Spain's decision in 2004 agreeing to the establishment of a new Trilateral Forum for dialogue involving the United Kingdom, Spain and Gibraltar. That political reality should be recognized in the Committee's consensus resolution.
Spain's representative said substantial steps had been taken through the Tripartite Forum over the past year. In that Forum, established in October 2004 by the United Kingdom and Spain to deal with the question of Gibraltar, the participation of Spain, the United Kingdom and the Government of Gibraltar had occurred without prejudice to their respective constitutional status, including the fact that Gibraltar was not a sovereign and independent State.
He said that any decision or agreement reached in the Forum must be agreed by each of the three participants. To date, it had held two meetings and a third would be held on 10 and 11 October. The Joint Committee of the Government of Gibraltar, established to promote the identification and execution of mutually beneficial projects, had met on several occasions in a constructive and cooperative atmosphere, where several territorial political forces had been able to participate.
Regarding the question of Western Sahara, Algeria's representative said the Territory's occupation by its northern neighbour had forced tens of thousands of people to flee to Algeria and Mauritania. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) had fought a valiant battle before laying down its arms in 1990, when Morocco had finally resolved to negotiate and agreed to a settlement plan. Unfortunately, neither the Settlement Plan, nor the Houston Agreements negotiated between the POLISARIO Front and Morocco, nor the Peace Plan of 2003, approved by the Security Council in its resolution 1495, had been implemented.
He said Western Sahara was not a Moroccan province, but a Non-Self-Governing Territory under resolution 1514 (XV). It was illegally occupied and in need of decolonization through the exercise by its people of their right to self-determination. There was still time for Morocco to return to international legality via the Peace Plan for Self-determination, which was the optimum political settlement of the Western Sahara dispute. Algeria hoped that the Secretary-General's appointment of Peter van Walsum as his new Personal Envoy -- who intended to visit the region in the coming days -- might be an opportunity to relaunch the process.
The Committee then heard from six petitioners on the same subject, some of whom stressed that Western Sahara was illegally occupied by Morocco and that decolonization should take place through a referendum supervised by the United Nations. They called for the release of all Saharawi political prisoners and for the protection of all civilians in the Territory. If the rights of the Saharawi people were not respected, there was a possibility that the armed conflict might start anew. Other petitioners drew attention to the plight of some 150,000 people, who remained in Sahara desert refugee camps, and called upon the Moroccan Government to comply with current legality via the Peace Plan submitted by the Secretary-General's former Personal Envoy, which the POLISARIO Front had accepted.
Also addressing the Committee were two petitioners from Guam, who complained about the militarization of the Territory by the United States armed forces. Debtralynne K. Quinata of the Chamoru Nation said that more than one third of the island was occupied by the United States military, and its people were increasingly concerned because over the past 20 years, the administering Power had not acted in good faith and had attempted to undercut, if not eliminate, the decolonization process. The United Nations should relay to the United States the need to pay war reparations, clean up its contamination of the island's land and water, pay adequate compensation for the land it was using, and fulfil its treaty obligations to provide the means for an adequate education campaign on the Chamoru right to decolonization.
Other petitioners included Joseph Bossano, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, and representatives of: Chamoru Cultural Development and Research Institute; American Association of Jurists; United States Congressman Zach Wamp; National Federation of Institutions Working in Solidarity with the Saharawi People (FEDISSAH); Misión de la observación en el Sáhara Occidental del Consejo General de la Abogacía Española; and the Euskal Fondoa y Alcaldesa del Municipio de Berriz. Justin Knapp, speaking on his own behalf, also petitioned the Committee.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of the United Kingdom.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, 7 October, to continue its general debate on decolonization and hold further hearings of petitioners.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate on decolonization issues this afternoon when it was expected to hear petitioners and representatives from Non-Self-Governing Territories.
ABDALLAH BALLI (Algeria) said that only some Territories remained on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, but their turn for decolonization would come one day. That was the case for the people of Western Sahara, whose territory had been occupied by its northern neighbour, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee to Algeria and Mauritania. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) had fought a valiant battle until it laid down arms in 1990, because Morocco had finally resolved to negotiate and agreed to a settlement plan in 1990. Unfortunately, neither the Settlement Plan, nor the Houston Agreements negotiated between POLISARIO and Morocco, nor the Peace Plan of 2003, approved by the Security Council in its resolution 1495 (2003), had been implemented because of the attitude of Morocco.
He said Western Sahara was not a Moroccan province but a Non-Self-Governing Territory under resolution 1514 (XV), illegally occupied and in need of decolonization via the exercise by its people of their right to self-determination. The international community should not recognize a fait accompli. Recent nationalistic manifestations in Western Sahara had been violently suppressed by Moroccan security forces and some territories had been closed off. It was not surprising that no country had recognized the sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara. There was still time for Morocco to return to international legality via the Peace Plan for Self-Determination by the people of Western Sahara, which was the optimum political settlement of the conflict. Algeria hoped that the appointment by the Secretary-General of his new Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, who intended to visit the region in the coming days, might be an opportunity to relaunch the process.
JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARÑUEVO (Spain) said that over the past year, substantial steps had been taken in each of the principal elements of the three-way Forum for Dialogue, established in October 2004 by the United Kingdom and Spain to deal with the question of Gibraltar. The first element was based on dialogue with an open agenda. To date, the Forum had held two meetings, one in Malaga in February 2005, which had dealt with issues relating to the airport, the gate/border, pensions and telecommunications; and another in Faro, Portugal, in July 2005, which had dealt with issues relating to environmental and border cooperation, as well as cooperation in cultural and sports-related matters. Another meeting would be held on 10 and 11 October in Palma de Mallorca.
The second element was constituted by the fact that each part had its own separate voice, and that each participated from the same base, he said. The participation of Spain, the United Kingdom and the Government of Gibraltar occurred without prejudice to their respective constitutional status, including the fact that Gibraltar was not a sovereign and independent State. The third element comprised the fact that any decision or agreement reached in the Forum must be agreed by each of the three participants. That formula permitted an atmosphere of mutual confidence and cooperation for the benefit and prosperity of Gibraltar and the neighbouring region. It was also important to highlight that the Joint Committee of the Government of Gibraltar, established in 2004 to promote the identification and execution of mutually beneficial projects, had met on several occasions in a constructive and cooperative atmosphere, where several political forces of the seven townships of the Campo de Gibraltar were able to participate.
Statements by Representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories
PETER CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said the question of Gibraltar was really very simple. It had been Moorish for 727 years, Spanish for 266 years and a British possession and colony for a total of 301 years. During the last 300 years it had become the homeland of the people of Gibraltar, who had come from all over the Mediterranean Basin. The people were politically developed, socially advanced and economically self-sufficient. They already enjoyed a very large measure of self-government. Everyone agreed that Gibraltar should be decolonized, including the Government of Spain. The people wanted it and were ready for it. The simple issue at stake was: should that decolonization take place in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar, or should it be achieved by the handover of the sovereignty of its homeland by the colonial Power (the United Kingdom) to Spain against the people's wishes, in negotiations conducted bilaterally?
Noting Spain's claim that Gibraltar's decolonization should be achieved not by applying the principle of self-determination, but that of territorial integrity, he said that was not decolonization but re-colonization. It could not be the doctrine of the United Nations that the sovereignty of Gibraltar could be handed over from one country to another against the wishes of its people, or that decolonization took place in a manner other than that chosen by those people. When the principle of territorial integrity was cited in the Decolonization Declaration, it was to make clear that the principle of self-determination was not available to allow the people and territory of a Member State to secede from it. It was a total misconception to apply that principle so as to allow a Member State to recover territory lost 300 years ago. It was self-evident that Spain was not possessed of a Government representing the people and Territory of Gibraltar. Therefore, the principle of territorial integrity could not override that of self-determination.
Another Spanish assertion was that the principle of self-determination did not apply because of the existence of a so-called sovereignty dispute, he said. That claim had no foundation in United Nations doctrine or international law. Inalienable and fundamental rights could not be overridden by the mere existence of a territorial sovereignty claim or dispute. The International Court of Justice had said so in the Namibia Case: "...the subsequent development of international law in regard to Non-Self-Governing Territories, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, made the principle of self-determination applicable to all of them". The position of the people of Gibraltar was that decolonization could only be achieved through the exercise by the people of Gibraltar of its inalienable right to self-determination, which was pursuant to its right to freely decide the political future of its homeland.
He said his Government was currently engaged in constitutional talks with Gibraltar's administering Power, the United Kingdom. Negotiations were going quite well, and hopefully would conclude satisfactorily during the first half of 2006. Gibraltar had repeatedly urged the Committee to modify its annual consensus resolution on the Territory, the more so because there was, in practice, no process of bilateral negotiations under the so-called Brussels Process. It was, therefore, incorrect for the Committee to approve annually a consensus resolution urging bilateral negotiations. Gibraltar welcomed Spain's decision in 2004 to agree to the establishment of a new Trilateral Forum of dialogue involving the United Kingdom, Spain and Gibraltar and separate from the so-called Brussels Process. The new process was realistic and viable for all parties, while the Brussels Process was politically spent. That political reality should be recognized through the elimination altogether of references to it in the Committee's consensus resolution. At least, the resolution should be modified by including a full reference to the new tripartite process.
Statements by Petitioners
JOE BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition of Gibraltar, said that some weeks ago Spain's Foreign Minister had told the General Assembly that he wished to see the Territory decolonization finally resolved. However, Gibraltar was a nation under colonial rule, primarily because for 40 years Spain had done everything in its power to impede and frustrate progress towards decolonization. At a recent Socialist gathering, Britain's Foreign Minister had mentioned a treaty with Spain from 1713, under article 10 of which the King of Spain had the right to claim sovereignty over Gibraltar, if the British Crown ever gave it up. The Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom were hiding behind the pseudo-legitimacy of that bankrupt, long-defunct treaty to justify their flagrant failure to observe their obligations under the United Nations Charter to a people under colonial rule.
The only way Gibraltar could be decolonized and the United Kingdom released from its obligations under article 73/e of the Charter was for Spain to stay out of the situation and for Gibraltar to agree to a new constitution with the United Kingdom, he said. How could the Fourth Committee continue to urge the resumption of bilateral talks between Spain and the United Kingdom when it knew full well that no such talks would take place? The Committee's "decision", taken last year, had urged the United Kingdom and Spain to listen to, and presumably ignore, Gibraltar's aspirations, and then reach a definitive solution to decolonization in the spirit of the Brussels Statement and the spirit of the Charter. The text of the 1984 Statement and the text of the Charter were mutually exclusive and in flat contradiction of each other, clear indication of how meaningless the Committee's annual exercise had been and continued to be.
Before 2010, under the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, Gibraltar would achieve decolonization and exercise self-determination, he continued. Gibraltar would prefer to do that with the support of the United Nations and its involvement, and with Spain accepting its inevitability. But if that was not to be, Gibraltar would achieve it alone.
JULIAN AGUON, Chamoru Cultural Development and Research Institute, speaking on the question of Guam, said the colonized Chamoru continued to suffer under United Sates colonization. In today's climate of feverish American militarization, the people's cultural and spiritual death was appearing on the horizon. The current Governor of Guam, who had claimed erroneously that the Chamoru were engaged in a working relationship with the United States to address the question of self-determination, was standing behind policies that were profoundly anti-Chamoru and anti-democratic. The Governor was pushing a mass privatization agenda to the detriment of the Chamoru. Privatization and militarization combined to form the new "colonialist cross we Chamoru are hanging from now".
The United States was planning to increase its military presence to accommodate more of its weapons of mass destruction, he said. It was also planning to build two more schools for American children, while denying Chamoru children a dignified, decolonized future. This year, a book entitled "The Secret Guam Study" had revealed how United States federal agencies had purposefully killed a presidential directive handed down by President Gerald Ford in 1975, mandating that Guam be given a status no less favourable than the commonwealth arrangements being negotiated between the United States and the Northern Mariana Islands at that time. The Committee must actively apply pressure on the United States to usher along the Chamoru exercise of self-determination through a legitimate, Chamoru-only vote on political status.
DEBTRALYNNE K. QUINATA, Chamoru Nation, stated that more than one third of her island was occupied by the United States Armed Forces and its people were increasingly concerned because over the past 20 years, the administering Power had not acted in good faith. At the United Nations, the United States had attempted to undercut, if not eliminate, the decolonization process. There was a pretence that the island was already self-governing because there were local elections, but the locally elected officials did not represent the Chamoru people. Their pledge of allegiance had been made to the United States and they were bound by its laws. Ultimately, they represented its desires and interests. The Chamoru Nation would not be tricked into forgetting that they had the right to exercise self-determination.
She appealed to the United Nations to relay to the United States the need to pay war reparations, clean up its contamination of the island's land and water, pay adequate compensation for the land it was using and fulfil its treaty obligations to provide the means for an adequate education campaign for the Chamoru right to decolonization. In addition, the Committee was invited to visit Guam and see for themselves the scarred but saveable homeland.
Question of Western Sahara
VANESSA RAMOS, American Association of Jurists, said her organization was a non-governmental organization enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. A great part of the conflicts in Latin America and the world had their roots in interventionist policies of colonialism and imperialism. The association expressed its solidarity with the Saharawi and their right to self-determination. The Saharawi people had suffered for more than 25 years the fierce repression of the Moroccan occupation regime. This year, they had risen en masse in protest. The heroic hunger strike by Saharawi prisoners had reaffirmed the cruelty of the occupation and underlined the violations of human rights.
She urged the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to do all that was necessary to facilitate the release of all Saharawi political prisoners. The MINURSO must immediately call for a self-determination referendum and the United Nations must intervene to protect civilians, as well as the men and women who had been jailed for defending their rights. It was untenable for a colonial Government to have the power to deny access to international observers. Western Sahara was illegally occupied by Morocco and decolonization should take place through a referendum supervised by the United Nations. If the rights of the Saharawi people were not respected, there was a possibility that the armed conflict might start anew. The association called upon Member States to recognize the Saharawi Republic.
HELEN HARDIN, speaking on behalf of Congressman Zach Wamp, said that 150,000 people remained today in extremely harsh conditions, living in refugee camps in the Sahara desert. Despite the extremes of scorching summer heat and frigid winter temperatures, the Saharawi were still living in tents and mud brick rooms. Electricity was still virtually non-existent and they used holes in the ground for sanitation facilities. They continued to rely almost totally on humanitarian assistance from the international community and malnutrition rates, especially in young people, were extremely high. The absence of meaningful work was another depressing aspect of the refugee camps.
Despite those extreme hardships, the Saharawi people were a shining example of the triumph of the human spirit, she said. The strong and vibrant people still had hope for their future and were warm and welcoming to strangers. The refugees were well informed and knew of the meeting taking place today. They had had their hopes dashed so many times, however, and were frustrated and disillusioned by the lack of follow-through by the international community. Only a few people in the world had the means to help the Saharawi people and it was to be hoped that those present today would take action to end their exile, helping them return to their beloved homeland.
ANTONIO LOPEZ ORTIZ, Secretary of the National Federation of Institutions Working in Solidarity with the Saharawi People (FEDISSAH), denounced what he called the brutal repression and the systematic violation of the most basic human rights over which the Moroccan authorities rode roughshod without fear of punishment. Morocco still prevented international observers from entering Western Sahara, he said, and in recent months it had used force on 11 occasions to prevent entry of political and social delegations from Spain.
The King of Morocco, the Prime Minster of his Government and the senior members of the Moroccan administration had repeated their arguments continually, he said. They would only accept a referendum that guaranteed Moroccan rule over the Sahara. Where was the respect for the United Nations agreements? he asked. Why was Morocco allowed to laugh in the face of international law? Was the United Nations unable to do more than it was currently doing to force Morocco to respect the rules of the game? The lack of firmness on the part of the Security Council was truly alarming, he said.
Continuing, he pointed out that the United Nations had sufficient resources to enforce compliance with its resolutions and agreements, and to ensure that international law was respected. What sense was there, then, in prolonging this situation any further? Politics and diplomacy were the art of making what was necessary possible, he said, and at this time it was necessary for the Saharawi people to be given respect for their dignity and the capacity to decide their own future.
INES MIRANDA NAVARRO, Misión de la observación en el Sáhara Occidental del Consejo General de la Abogacía Española, said her organization was continuing its independent and objective legal observation of Western Sahara, initiated in 2002. In July, Spanish jurists had attended the trials against the Saharawis arrested in the city of Aaiún in May for having participated in peaceful demonstrations.
During the trials, the military and police presence had increased in the city and the area around the courthouse had been closed to all vehicles, including those of MINURSO. Access to the courtroom had been denied to the Saharawi people.
She said the atmosphere in the courtroom itself was of a medieval nature. The lawyers for the defendants had not shown up at the trial, alleging the non-existence of an effective legal defence. The procedures were contrary to international and Moroccan law. Among other things, lawyers had only been allowed to assist the prisoners during the trial and the presumption of innocence had been absent. Moreover, proof had been obtained illegally through torture. Also, the trial had taken place in Morocco, which had neither the sovereignty nor the right of administration to the non-independent autonomous Territory of Western Sahara.
ROSA MARIA OSTOGAIN ETXEBERRIA, Euskal Fondoa y Alcaldesa del Municipio de Berriz, said she was the mayor of a small Basque town in Spain and president of an association of local and regional authorities for international cooperation. That organization had been working for years in support of the Saharawi people and for years, Basque towns and homes had welcomed Saharawi children. Every year, families visited the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf. The time had come to find the will to call upon the Moroccan Government to comply with current legality. The POLISARIO Front had shown that it was more than willing to abide by the agreements reached. It had also freed all Moroccan prisoners of war. The Moroccan Government had created a situation in Western Sahara that defied description. It was riding roughshod over any semblance of legality and the international community remained silent. The Saharawi people had a non-negotiable right to a referendum on self-determination.
JUSTIN ANTHONY KNAPP, advocating for the Saharawi people, said Morocco had habitually resisted mediation. When the conflict had begun, the United Nations had essentially been complacent and prior to the formation of MINURSO, the armed conflict had continued for a decade. Since the ceasefire, the United Nations had been complicit in the continued occupation. But being neutral was, in reality, to be pro-Moroccan and the United Nations should consider options other than mediation. Article 22 of the Charter stated that the Security Council might call upon the parties to seek arbitration or a binding legal settlement. The General Assembly could denounce the occupation, or the involved parties could call upon Morocco to respect the findings of the International Court of Justice.
He said that for the United Nations to retain its credibility, it must not acquiesce to the demands of the occupier. Rather, it must reward the nobility, dignity and pacifism of the Saharawi, a humble nation looking to introduce democracy into a region where it was a rarity. The Saharawi were one of the most literate and well-educated nations in Africa and they had consistently respected the mediation process. The United Nations had been willing to denounce Israel as an occupier, and to make peace in war-torn nations. Why not in the Sahara?
Rights of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, welcomed the remarks by the Permanent Representative of Spain saying that issues related to Gibraltar could only be resolved in a climate of trust. The Trilateral Forum on Gibraltar and the positive progress of practical issues that the representative of Spain had described were also welcome. The United Kingdom had no doubts about its sovereignty over Gibraltar and would stand by its commitments to its people.
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