Outspoken human rights activist Peter Tatchell has slammed the Gibraltar government over its failure to ensure equal rights for the LGBT community on the Rock.

Speaking at the end of a local fact-finding mission yesterday, Mr Tatchell said: “The people of Gibraltar are wonderful, but the government appears tobe drifting towards autocracy.

“It is failing to respect the human rights of its own citizens, especially gay people, the disabled and immigrants,” he said.

Mr Tatchell, who was invited to conduct the assessment by local equality rights movement GGR, said people were afraid to report discrimination and harassment due to fear of state officials.

“After having met with a wide cross-section of Gibraltarian society, it is apparent that Gibraltar fails a number of UK and EU human rights standards,” he said.

“It is also clear that victims of human rights abuses lack effective, swift mechanisms for the redress of grievances and are often silenced by an atmosphere of intimidation and fear.

“Many people have told me about instances of discrimination, harassment and injustice.

“None were willing to make official complaints or go on the public record regarding the human rights violations they had suffered. All were afraid of retribution from

state officials.

“Some feared losing access to jobs, housing, welfare benefits, medical treatment, student places and educational awards and grants,” the British activist continued.

“Human rights shortcomings are damaging Gibraltar’s reputation internationally, which may discourage some investors and tourists. It could also undermine European support for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination.

“People are less likely to sympathise with Gibraltar’s sovereignty claim if it has a poor human rights record.”

Mr Tatchell, who supports Gibraltar’s right to self-determination, met with ordinary citizens and human rights campaigners.

He also had meeting with the leaders of all political parties, apart from Peter Caruana, chief minister and head of the governing Gibraltar Social Democrats, the neo-conservative party currently in power.

Mr Caruana refused to attend the meeting if Felix Alvarez, Mr Tatchell’s host and Chair of the GGR, was present.

“The Chief Minister’s attitude towards Mr Alvarez was petty and rude,” Mr Tatchell argued.

“I did not think it was right that Peter Caruana was prepared to meet me, a foreigner, but not one of his own Gibraltarian citizens.

“This did not strike me as polite or reasonable.”

Gibraltar’s record on gay rights lags far behind that of other European countries.

The age of consent for gay men is higher than for their heterosexual equivalents, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples and ‘buggery’, ‘attempted buggery’ and ‘gross indecency’ remain illegal, again contrary to the European Convention.