Tag Archives: Self Determination

UN’s Fourth Committee Consider the Falklands – no action pending

18 Oct

The United Nation’s Fourth Committee opened its annual consideration on the issue of decolonization on October 7th and concluded on the 14th.

As with previous years the Committee had before it the Reports of its sub-Committee, the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – known informally as the Special Committee or the C24.

Again, in a repetition of the course of business that takes place every year, Argentina and its allies were heard to repeat the mantra that the Falkland Islands were in some way a special case despite the UN’s General Assembly never having said any such thing. Those representatives were also at some pains to include along with the Falklands – South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands, together with the more recently added “surrounding maritime areas.” In fact so much effort was spent in the attempt to include these locations, none of which fall onto any UN list for decolonization, that the official Press Release from the Committee for the first day had to be withdrawn and re-done to Argentina’s specifications.

In particular, the input from Chile had to be largely re-written as, according to the first press report, her representative had failed to mention the Falklands Islands, etc, etc, at all.

The most important statement to come out of the Fourth Committee’s deliberations over the week was the affirmation that the process of decolonization was both “irresistible and irreversible,” although typically Argentina attempted to distance the Falkland Islands, etc., etc., from the decolonization process even though the Fourth Committee, and indeed the UN, has no remit to resolve any sovereignty dispute. Argentina appears to like the decolonization forum while trying to convince the world that the Falklands should not actually be considered a case for decolonization.

It seems that yet again they failed. At the conclusion on Monday the Fourth Committee reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination before forwarding 11 draft- Resolutions to the General Assembly for adoption, none of which directly concerned the Falkland Islands, although some of the more general expressions may be applied.

Having voted in favour, Argentina, as every year, then attempted to say that its vote did not recognise the Falkland Islanders as having any right to self-determination despite the fact that this is now recognised as a fundamental Human Right. They even referred to the long-dead Resolution 2065 which had been killed off in 1982 – by Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc., etc., etc.

Another year gone.



Legislative Assembly Members meet with Argentine Human Rights Group

16 May

Press Release 16.5.13:
The Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly recently agreed that two of its members should meet with five representatives of a human rights group from Chaco, Argentina in order to listen to their views on a number of issues resulting from the 1982 war.

Dick Sawle and Mike Summers attended the meeting following a request from the group made directly to the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly.  Three regional Argentine politicians with specific responsibilities for human rights in the Chaco region attended the meeting, along with the Chairman and Secretary of the human rights group.

Following the meeting, MLA Sawle said:

“The Falkland Islands are a modern democracy, and we uphold fundamental values such as freedom of speech and human rights.  On humanitarian grounds, it was only right that we should listen to the views of this group who are actively involved in investigating the cases of abuse of many Argentine veterans who suffered greatly at the hands of their own officers during the invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.   However, whilst we may listen to their views on a variety of issues, on the specific issue of DNA testing we have made it very clear that we can only consider any practical action if and when we receive a request from the International Red Cross which must have the full and unequivocal support of the Families Commission in Argentina.”

MLA Mike Summers said:

“It is notable that an Argentine group such as this recognise the legitimate and democratically elected Government of the Falkland Islands, and should request this meeting.  We made it clear to the group that all peoples, including Falkland Islanders, have human rights, and that the current approach of the Argentine Government is unhelpful in achieving any co-operation.  The wishes of families are important, but the political context will be a determining factor.”

Belgrano sinking legal – said the International Red Cross

3 May

In a display of Argentina’s traditional ‘blindness’ with regard to international law, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, called the sinking of the ARA Belgrano, during the Falklands War in 1982, a “criminal and cowardly action.” 1982 ARA Belgrano sinking

On the 31st anniversary of the sinking, Fernandez attempted to maintain the fiction that being outside the declared ‘excusion zone’ should have spared the aging Argentine cruiser despite ample evidence that her orders were to attack the British Task Force. Such a claim also flys in the face of the opinion given by the vessels Captain, Héctor Bonzo, when he spoke to the newspaper Clarin in 2007 – “  It was an act of war. The acts of those who are at war, like the submarine’s attack, are not a crime … The crime is the war. We were on the front line and suffered the consequences. On April 30, we were authorised to open fire, and if the submarine had surfaced in front of me I would have opened fire with all our 15 guns until it sank.”

In fact the Argentine Government had been given a warning that if any of its warships presented a danger to the  British fleet then they would be attacked. A warning that the Junta did not take seriously until after the Belgrano was torpedoed on May 2nd, 1982 – one month after Argentina had illegally invaded the British archipelago.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who confirmed the Admiralty’s decision to attack, wrote of the incident some years later – “ Admiral Fieldhouse told us that one of our submarines, HMS Conqueror, had been shadowing the Argentine cruiser, General Belgrano. The Belgrano was escorted by two destroyers. The cruiser itself had substantial fire power provided by 6 inch guns with a range of 13 miles and anti-aircraft missiles.

We were advised that she might have been fitted with Exocet anti-ship missiles, and her two destroyer escorts were known to be carrying them. The whole group was sailing on the edge of the Exclusion Zone. We had received intelligence about the aggressive intentions of the Argentine fleet. There had been extensive air attacks on our ships the previous day and Admiral Woodward , in command of the Task Force, had every reason to believe that a full scale attack was developing. …..

Admiral Woodward had to come to a judgment about what to do with the Belgrano in the light of these circumstances. From all the information available, he concluded that the carrier and the Belgrano group were engaged in a classic pincer movement against the Task Force. It was clear to me what must be done to protect our forces, in the light of Admiral Woodward’s concern and Admiral Fieldhouse’s advice. We therefore decided that British forces should be able to attack any Argentine naval vessel on the same basis as agreed previously for the carrier…. The Belgrano was torpedoed and sunk just before 8 o’clock that evening. Our submarine headed away as quickly as possible. Wrongly believing that they would be the next targets, the Belgrano’s escorts seem to have engaged in anti-submarine activities rather than rescuing its crew, some 321 of whom were lost ….. “

On May 7th, 1982, Argentina complained to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva which ruled that the vessel, though outside the TEZ, was within the security zone of British ships in the area;  was fully armed and engaged in operations and that therefore there was no breach of the Geneva Convention. The action was perfectly legal.

Falklands Memorial Service for Thatcher

17 Apr

A Memorial Service for Margaret Thatcher was held yesterday at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Christ Church Cathedral in the capital Stanley was packed; a measure of the esteem in which she is held in the islands. MT Memorial

Members of the British military, whose predecessors evicted the Argentinean invaders in 1982, also attended the service in uniform.

Ian Hanson, a member of the Falkland Islands Assembly gave the tribute; “In the case of the Falklands, her conviction that standing up for justice and freedom was the right thing to do, may have made her difficult decisions easier. We must give thanks for that conviction and for her strength of character. Because of her courage, and the skill, bravery and sacrifice of Britain’s armed forces – our liberty and our future were secured. Lady Thatcher’s legacy in our Islands goes much further than our liberation. She made the UK’s position on the Falklands very clear; there would be no negotiation over the Falkland Islands unless and until the Islanders wished it. This has ensured that subsequent British governments, regardless of political affiliation, have publicly reaffirmed the right of Falkland Islanders to determine their own future. “More than 30 years on, the support of the current British Government could not be stronger.”

Mr Hanson told the congregation: “Today’s modern Falkland Islands is forward-looking, internally self-governing and financially self-sufficient. There is perhaps no greater legacy to a prime minister who was not afraid to stand up for freedom and justice, than the people and community she allowed us to become. One thing is certain, in the Falkland Islands her memory will never be forgotten. Margaret Thatcher – What a woman!  What a leader!  What a friend!”


The Falklands’ “Winston Churchill”

8 Apr

Falkland Islanders mourned Margaret Thatcher on Monday, revering her as “our Winston Churchill” after the 1982 invasion by Argentine forces, while many Argentines bitterly recalled her role in defending the South Atlantic territory.

Flags flew at half-staff on the Falklands after news of Thatcher’s death aged 87. margaret-thatcher-falklands-jan-1983

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister when Argentina sent an invasion force to seize the Falklands in April 1982. PM Thatcher’s immediate reaction was to fight back. ” … for the first time for many years, British sovereign territory has been invaded by a foreign power. …The Government have now decided that a large task force will sail as soon as all preparations are complete. HMS Invincible will be in the lead and will leave port on Monday. …

The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the United Kingdom, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. It is the wish of the British people and the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to do everything that we can to uphold that right. That will be our hope and our endeavour..”

The Falklands War lasted only 74 days before the British Task Force forced the surrender of the Argentine forces dug in on the Falklands; but not before the loss of over 900 lives including those of three Islanders.

In many ways the War defined Thatchers period as Prime Minister and earned here the name “Iron Lady.’

Her resolve was unflinching; even when pushed by the US President to find a diplomatic solution; “I didn’t lose some of my best ships and some of my finest lives, to leave quietly under a ceasefire without the Argentines withdrawing… I’m not handing over the island now … I can’t lose the lives and blood of our soldiers to hand the islands over to a contact group. It’s not possible… This is democracy and our island,..”

Islander Tim Miller, 60, recalled the 1982 conflict. “For me, she was for the Falklands what Winston Churchill was to Great Britain in 1940. She was the right person in the right place at the right time and did the right thing.”

However Thatcher’s death stirred up angry memories in Argentina. Jose Raschella, 48, said: “I hope God can forgive her because I can’t. The pain that she left our country can’t be erased, we’ll never forget all that pain.” On Twitter, left-leaning political groups celebrated the demise of a “war criminal.”

Carlos Grillo, a 63-year-old shop owner in Buenos Aires, said he had mixed feelings. “I hated her at that time, so I can’t be impartial. I can’t say ‘I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.”

In Buenos Aires, while most people were pleased or indifferent about Thatcher’s death, Alcides Francesco expressed some admiration for the British leader. “She was an English patriot. If we’d had several Margaret Thatchers here, the Falkland Islands would be ours.”

The Argentine government made no official comment.

Referendum – a game changer

7 Apr

Mike Summers, speaking on his return from his United States tour, told the Falkland Islands Radio Service that the American Congressmen that he had met talked about the Falklands Referendum being a “game changer.” BA Herald Editor

Summers, a Member of the Falklands’ Legislative Assembly, reviewed the trip which he’d made with Sharon Halford; ” We had a wide range of discussions on the first Monday in the States. I stopped in Miami for a while and talked to some cruise companies there … and also met with Congressman Mario Dules Belar who has a key interest in the cruise industry. ..  we had some very good discussions and confirmations from a couple of cruise vessel companies that they are reinstating their business in the Falklands again next year.

Sharon Halford carried on to Atlanta to do some interviews with CNN and I was diverted to New York so Sharon also dealt with the announcement of the results of the referendum in Washington on Tuesday and did all the media work there.

Wednesday was a key day in Washington. We had a whole series of meetings with various Congressmen and we met people in important positions in the Western Hemisphere Committee, people in the Foreign Affairs Committee and others who we knew from other activities. And without exception the Congressmen were saying that the referendum changed the game in the Falklands.

It changes the way that people should be seeing the Falklands and it brings another clear dynamic to these discussions they were very supportive of our right to self-determination. And I am not sure if you have heard or it has been announced that there is a Motion now on the floor of Congress supporting the right to self-determination for the people of the Falkland Islands.

Thursday was a day back in New York where we met with UN Officials. We had a very good opportunity to present the Falklands case about the referendum, how it went and what the programme was going on from there. They listened very carefully. I think they were generally very supportive of what we had done and what we are doing but naturally much more cautious about what the UN might say as a result of the referendum. There is no indication at this stage that the UN as an institution will take any different view in public. But clearly they get the referendum and what it means.

The same day we had a very interesting meeting with a number of UN Ambassadors, all of whom sit on the C-24. It was a very positive discussion with people clearly understanding what it is we are doing and why we are doing it. Some of them are agreeing very strongly with the concept of self-determination for the people of the Falklands. Others perhaps are slightly more cautious. Even amongst countries that we may not have expected automatic support it was evident. Countries like Indonesia and Iraq expressed quite strong support for the right to self-determination for the people of the Falklands. We also had a good discussion led by the Ambassador from Papua New Guiana about different ways of doing business in the C-24 and I think there is a caucus of countries that sit in the C-24 who are frankly fed up with the way that it operates and that they need to do it differently. It was an interesting discussion that will be very helpful to us and I am looking forward to June.

On Friday we went back to Washington and had meetings in the National Security Council and State Department who are the advisors to the US Government on Foreign Policy. They were very supportive and agreed that the referendum changed the dynamic. .. at a personal level very much appreciate what we were doing and why we were doing it. In fact the US position on the Falklands has changed by a degree or so. We are not expecting a big bang. It has changed by a degree or so in that the statement by the US after the referendum was that it recognised the democratic nature of the referendum and it then went on to refer to negotiations between all parties. That’s different because previous statements had referred to both parties…”

Asked about the reaction of Argentina’s Government, Summers said; “I think they are struggling to know how to deal with it. I think it is inevitable that they would go to the UN. I think the arguments that we have about not being an implanted population and not being a colony and about Argentina wanting to colonise the Falklands and all those sorts of things are pretty powerful and pretty well understood and simply going there and repeating a number of slogans that have a limited base in fact will have limited effect.  I don’t think it will make that much difference.”

All Fools Day

1 Apr

In the UK, and many other countries, today, April 1st, is known as Fools Day.

Today is also the 246th anniversary of Louis de Bougainville’s handing over of his East Falklands settlement to the Spanish in an act of French recognition that Spain claimed all of that part of the world. A claim not recognized by Britain, or indeed many other European nations – indeed a claim not recognized by Bougainville himself. 1763 Louis Antoine de Bougainville

April 1st, 1767 was however the last act of French involvement in the history of the Falkland Islands despite Bougainville’s attempt to get Napoleon to assert the French claim to sovereignty in 1801. Not that the French had discovered the archipelago – an accolade likely to belong to Portuguese explorers – but the French had been stopping off at East Falkland since at least 1700.

Bougainville, however, was the first to establish a permanent settlement on the eastern of the two main Falkland Islands which he did in February 1764; almost 12 months before the British arrived in West Falkland and reasserted their claim to all the islands.

At that time, French/Spanish politics was based on the ‘Family Compact’, an agreement recognizing that the two royal families were related. It was as a result of this agreement that Bougainville was forced by his King to hand over his settlement; an Order he fought against arguing that the Spanish had never attempted to settle on the Falklands and appeared not even to know where they were.

Britain’s claim was asserted by Commodore John Byron in January 1765; having been sent with orders based on earlier English claims to the archipelago; “Whereas nothing can redound more to the honour of this Nation, as a maritime power, to the dignity of the Crown of Great Britain, and to the advancement of trade and navigation thereof, than to make discoveries of countries hitherto unknown; and whereas there is reason to believe that lands and islands of great extent, hitherto unvisited by any European power, may be found in the Atlantic ocean, between the Cape of Good Hope and the Magellanic streight, within the latitudes convenient for navigation, and in climates adapted to the produce of commodities useful in commerce; and whereas his Majesty’s islands called Pepy’s island, and Falklands islands, lying within said tract; have never yet been sufficiently surveyed as that an accurate judgment may be formed of their coasts and product: his Majesty; conceiving no conjuncture so proper for an enterprise of this nature; as a time of profound peace, which his kingdoms at present happily enjoy, has thought fit that it should now be undertaken.”

Whilst it is noteworthy that the British King assumed sovereignty from the 1690’s, the reality was that the French claim was probably the better one. But they gave it up in a simple ceremony; “ I delivered our settlement to the Spaniards, who took possession of it by planting the Spanish colors which were saluted at sun-rising and sunset from the shore and on the ships. … “

And so the Spanish arrived two years after Byron reasserted the British claim – on April 1st 1767. All Fools Day.