Whenever I have discussed the legality of the Treaty of Utrecht or the water sovereignty issue with Gibraltarians who are knowledgeable on these weight matters they have all told me that if Gibraltar’s case was taken to an international court it would win.
When we discuss Spain’s sovereignty claim, its reliance on the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht for Gibraltar to past back to Spain if it ceased to be British or the row over the sovereignty of the Rock’s waters or airspace the refrain is always the same – Spain’s claims would not stand up in an international court of law and hence Madrid’s refusal to take that course.
Gibraltar’s chief minister and opposition leader trip off each year to the UN in New York to lay their case before the committees dealing with decolonisation yet the outcome is the same. Whether it is Caruana or Bossano speaking they defend the Rock’s position and its right to self-determine its own future, Spain rubbishes it saying it claims sovereignty and Britain basically says Gibraltar is British till the people of Gibraltar say otherwise. In both cases London and Madrid grasp the Treaty of Utrecht that is so old and battered that its only modern role is as a museum curiosity.
The problem for Gibraltar is that whilst it is British, may or may not have reached a post-colonial status, unlike its famous Rock it has no firm foundations because Spain tries to undermine it by insisting it is Spanish.
Spain claims sovereignty and waves the battered treaty. Spain says Gibraltar has no waters or airspace because they weren’t mentioned in the treaty. Britain says Gibraltar is British because of the treaty yet seems reluctant to defend the Rock’s waters or to secure for it the 12 mile limit which international law says is its right.
Now in the two referendums held on the issue in 1969 and 2002 the people of Gibraltar voted firmly to remain British with levels normally reserved for polls in dictator controlled or communist states. The unanimity of the result gives no hope to those in Spain who might seek to drive a wedge between Gibraltarians – except of course on the occasions when a politician suggests a more accommodating result could be delivered.
So my question is this – why not forget the UN, forums, dialogue and what-have-you and go to the international court instead? Why don’t the people of Gibraltar united take their case to the international court to establish their right to self determine their own future? Why doesn’t Gibraltar go to the international court once and for all to have a ruling on its sovereignty over its own Rock, waters and airspace? Why doesn’t Gibraltar go to the international court to have the Treaty of Utrecht confined to the waste bin?
If the law is on Gibraltar’s side isn’t it time this nation of lawyers called Madrid’s bluff and took the legal route to cement its own future?