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IRAQ

Iraq war veteran named as Gibraltar Governor

Britain on Thursday named a former Royal Marine general who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to the ceremonial post of governor of Gibraltar, the territory at the centre of a fierce feud with Spain.

Iraq war veteran named as Gibraltar Governor
Lieutenant-General James Benjamin Dutton hopes his military experience will stand him in good stead for his role as Gibraltar's Governor. Photo: Photo Marcos Moreno

Lieutenant-General James Benjamin Dutton will start in December as the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II on the rocky Mediterranean outcrop, which Britain has held since 1713.

The position of governor is largely ceremonial as Gibraltar has its own government, led by chief minister Fabian Picardo, who has played a vocal role during the recent flare-up of tensions with Madrid.

Dutton had a number of stints in Iraq starting with his leadership of 3 Commando Brigade during the 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. He served in Afghanistan as the deputy head of the NATO-led international Security Assistance Force in 2008 and 2009.

His 37-year career in the Royal Marines also included serving in the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina.

"I am delighted and honoured to be going to Gibraltar, especially given its historical connections with the Royal Marines," Dutton said in a statement.

"I hope that my many years of military experience combined now with three years of commercial experience will equip me well to deliver the governor's role and responsibilities toward Gibraltar and the United Kingdom."

He will succeed former Royal Navy Vice-Admiral Adrian Johns in the post of governor.

A row between London and Madrid broke out earlier this year after Spain introduced stringent border checks which have led to waits of up to five hours for motorists trying to enter the territory.

Gibraltar has accused Madrid of imposing the checks in retaliation for its decision to place concrete blocks in the sea as part of its efforts to improve fishing.

A team of EU monitors will go to the Spanish border with Gibraltar next week.

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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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