Under the independence constitution of 1979, Kiribati became a sovereign and democratic republic with a unicameral legislature, the Maneaba ni Maungatabu. The 1979 Constitution (as amended) explicitly protects the right to life and to freedom from inhumane treatment. According to Section 4 on the right to life:
(2) A person shall not be regarded as having been deprived of his life in contravention of this section if he dies as the result of the use, to such extent and in such circumstances as are permitted by law, of such force as is reasonably justifiable—
(a) for the defence of any person from violence or for the defence of property;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny; or
(d) in order to prevent the commission by that person of a criminal offence, or if he dies as the result of a lawful act of war.
The use of firearms purely to defend property is not permitted under international law.
Section 7(1) provides that: "No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment."
Under Section 3, every person in Kiribati is entitled to freedom of assembly.
Section 126 provides that:
No disciplined force shall be established other than the Kiribati Police, the Prison Service, the Marine Protection Service and the Marine Training School.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Not party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||N/A|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||No|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||No|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
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.
Police Use of Force
The Kiribati Police and Prison Services (KPPS) report directly to the President of Kiribati. The tasks of the police service include: maintenance of law and order; preservation of the peace; the protection of life and property; prevention and detection (including prosecution) of crime; enforcement of all laws and regulations.
Section 39(1) of the 2008 Police Act of Kiribati provides that police may use "reasonably necessary" force in the execution of their duties. This reflects the earlier provisions on use of force during arrest in Section 10 of the 1977 Criminal Procedure Code:
(1) In making an arrest the police officer or other person making the same shall actually touch or confine the body of the person to be arrested, unless there be a submission to the custody by word or action.
(2) If such person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or attempts to evade the arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest:
Provided that nothing in this section contained shall be deemed to justify the use of greater force than was reasonable in the particular circumstances in which it was employed or was necessary for the apprehension of the offender....
With respect to firearms, Section 40 of the 2008 Act allows force that is likely to cause grievous harm or death in the event that it seeks to arrest or prevent the escape of a person who has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offence punishable by life imprisonment. This is more permissive than international law allows.
The Public Service Office is a non-legislative complaint-handling mechanism for complaints about the Kiribati Government. It deals directly with agencies in resolving disputes. More complicated and contentious matters are referred to the Secretary to the Cabinet as head of the public service.
Kiribati has not adhered to the ICCPR and has only acceded to the Convention against Torture in 2019. In its 2015 Universal Periodic Review under the Human Rights Council, the issue of police use of force was not addressed.
There is no regional human rights mechanism with oversight for acts by law enforcement agencies in Kiribati.