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UN

Spain mulls taking Gibraltar issue to UN

Spain is considering taking its row over the disputed territory of Gibraltar to global bodies such as the United Nations and International Court of Justice at The Hague, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Spain mulls taking Gibraltar issue to UN
Britain's helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth in southern England on Monday for a 'routine' naval exercise in the Mediterranean. Photo: Andrew Cowie/AFP

Madrid is also mulling presenting a united front with Argentina, which is immersed in its own dispute with Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, over the issue of Gibraltar, the spokesman added.

"We are evaluating the possibility of going to bodies like the United Nations, the Security Council, the court in The Hague. They are possibilities. No decision has been taken," the spokesman said.

Spain could team up with Argentina, which is on a two-year term as non-permanent member of the UN's Security Council, to address the issue of the sovereignty of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, or the Malvinas as they are known in Spanish, in international bodies, he added.

"That is also being evaluated. There are common elements in the issue of Malvinas and Gibraltar and elements that are more distant," he added.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.

London says it will not do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians — who are staunchly pro-British.

Tensions over the territory rose last month after Gibraltar dropped 70 concrete blocks into the contested waters off its coast with the aim of creating an artificial reef.

Madrid accuses Gibraltar of creating the reef to prevent Spanish fishermen from casting their nets in the waters around the British territory ans has responded by beefing up border controls with Gibraltar, causing lengthy tailbacks of cars.

A handful of British warships began setting sail for the Mediterranean on Monday on what the defence ministry stresses is a routine exercise that was planned months ago.

But one of the ships is set to dock in Gibraltar later this week in a move that is being reported by some Spanish media outlets as an act of intimidation.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron said London was considering taking legal action against Spain over the stringent border checks.

The spokesman said legal action over the checks by Spanish guards, which have caused tailbacks of several hours at the border of the British-held territory, would be "an unprecedented step".

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ABORTION

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws

Gibraltar heads to the polls on Thursday to vote on plans to ease abortion laws which currently carry possible life sentences for offenders, in a referendum delayed for over a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws
A woman wears a t-shirt reading " Gibraltar for Yes!" outside a polling station in Gibraltar, on June 24, 2021. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The issue has exposed sharply opposing views within this tiny, normally closely-knit British enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain, which is home to some 32,000 people.

The referendum was initially slated for March 19 2020 but a week ahead of the vote it was postponed as virus cases began spiralling at the start of the pandemic.Except in cases where it would save the mother’s life, abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar on pain of life imprisonment, although such a penalty has not been applied in modern times.

The government is proposing changes to the law to allow abortion where a woman’s mental or physical health is at risk — such as in cases of rape or incest — or when foetuses have fatal physical defects.

Although the changes have already been approved by Gibraltar’s parliament, the referendum will decide whether or not that amended law be brought into force.

Under the changes, a woman would be able to undergo an abortion up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy if her mental or physical health is deemed at risk, or beyond if such damage would be grave and permanent.

There would be no time limit on cases involving fatal foetal anomaly.

Until now, women wanting to have an abortion have had to travel to Spain or to Britain to undergo the procedure.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo and his wife Justine Olivero leave a polling station after casting their ballots. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP

– ‘In Gibraltar’s best interests’ –

Ahead of the vote, both sides have been campaigning hard, with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and two other party leaders releasing a video urging people to vote “Yes” to the proposed amendment to the crimes act that will regulate abortions in Gibraltar.

“My personal, professional & political opinion on the abortion referendum: it is in #Gibraltar’s best interests to #VoteYes on Thursday 24th June,” Picardo tweeted.

“No” campaigners have also been rallying support with hundreds of people dressed in pink and purple joining a pro-life “Save Babies, vote no” march through the city centre last week, chanting “We vote no!”

On the ballot, voters will be asked: “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”

If the changes are approved, the law is expected to take effect fairly quickly although officials have not yet laid out a timeline.

The proposed changes came after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which at the time were almost identical to Gibraltar’s, were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is therefore clear that if the equivalent law on abortion in Northern Ireland was in breach of the Convention, our identical, archaic law is too,” wrote Picardo in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Gibraltar Chronicle.

“It is our duty to vote to stop this ongoing breach.”

Picardo has said he believed the changes were long overdue and that the plans would be approved “by a very large majority”.

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