Constitutional Provisions

The Cook Islands is a State that is neither a member nor an observer State of the United Nations. Its 1964 Cook Islands Constitution Act (as amended through 1997) protects fundamental human rights as follows:

It is hereby recognised and declared that in the Cook Islands there exist, and shall continue to exist, without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion, opinion, belief, or sex, the following fundamental human rights and freedoms:

The right of the individual to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with law.S. 64(1)(a), 1964 Cook Islands Constitution Act (as amended through 1997).

The Constitution explicitly protects freedom of peaceful assembly.S. 64(1)(f), 1964 Cook Islands Constitution Act (as amended through 1997).

The Constitution does not refer to the Cook Islands Police Service, which is one of the world's smallest. 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Not party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 N/A
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) Not party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints N/A
CAT Optional Protocol 1 N/A
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which Pacific nations can adhere despite discussions going back decades as to the possibility of establishing a regional mechanism.

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The actions of the Cook Islands Police Service are regulated by the 2012 Police Act. The Service polices 15 islands spread across two million square kilometres of ocean on a budget of just over $4 million, three quarters of which is spent on salaries.

Section 42 of the 1969 Crimes Act, which governs force used in executing process or in arrest, stipulates that:

Where any person is justified, or protected from criminal responsibility, in executing or assisting to execute any sentence, warrant, or process, or in making or assisting to make any arrest, that justification or protection shall extend and apply to the use by him of such force as may be necessary to overcome any force used in resisting such execution or arrest, unless the sentence, warrant, or process can be executed or the arrest made by reasonable means in a less violent manner:

Provided that, except in the case of a constable or person called upon by a constable to assist him, this section shall not apply where the force used is intended or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm.

Section 91(1) of the 1969 Crimes Act concerns the failure of rioters to disperse after the reading of the Riot Act. If, one hour after the reading of the Act, 12 or more persons remain assembled, "it is the duty of every constable, and of every one required by him to, assist, to arrest the persons so assembled". Furthermore, Section 91(2) of the Act provides that:

If by reason of the resistance of the persons so assembled one of them is killed or hurt in the arrest or attempted arrest of them, or in the endeavour to disperse them, every person ordering their arrest or dispersal, and every person carrying out any such order, shall be justified in having so acted.

This does not comply with international law.

Police Oversight

The Ombudsman is authorised by the 2012 Police Act to oversee the Cook Islands Police Service where a complaint is made to the Police Commissioner and it is not investigated or the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome.S. 91, 2012 Police Act.If death or serious injury results, or appears to result, from police action, the Police Commissioner must inform the Ombudsman.S. 92, 2012 Police Act. 



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

The Cook Islands has not adhered to the ICCPR or the Convention against Torture. In its Concluding Comments of 2017 on the Cook Islands, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women did not address police use of force.


1964 Cook Islands Constitution Act (as amended through 1997)

2012 Police Act

1969 Crimes Act