Constitutional Provisions

The 1979 Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia guarantees the rights to life and to freedom from cruel and unusual punishments. It does not explicitly prohibit torture but does guarantee security of person. The right to "peaceable assembly" is also protected.

The Constitution does not refer to the police or other law enforcement agencies.

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) Signatory
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 Not 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 Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) National Police is a small federal police force within the Department of Justice.

Title 12 of the 2014 Annotated Code, which governs criminal procedure, regulates the use of force in effecting an arrest:

In all cases where the person arrested refuses to submit or attempts to escape, such degree of force may be used as is necessary to compel submission.S. 215, Title 12, 2014 Annotated Code.

This does not set limits to the use of force as the principle of proportionality requires. The scope of police powers to use force have been identified by national caselaw (see below).

In 2018, Johnny Santos, the Chief of National Police of Micronesia was quoted as saying:

Human rights is an area I am not too familiar with, I know my government has made agreements to uphold human rights but I’ve never really known what exactly those agreements were.

Police Oversight

There is no independent civilian police oversight body in Micronesia.

Caselaw

Global

The Marshall Islands has not adhered to either the ICCPR or the CAT. The 2015 Universal Periodic Review of Micronesia did not address the issue of police use of force.

Regional

There is no regional human rights mechanism with oversight for acts by law enforcement agencies in Micronesia.

National

Loch v. FSM (Supreme Court, 1984)

Loch is the leading case on police use of force in Micronesia. The Court of Appeal held that a police officer is entitled under Section 215 of Title 12 to respond to physical resistance or attacks against him as he attempts to make an arrest and he may use whatever force is reasonably necessary to defend himself or others from harm. However, the police officer may not employ more force than he reasonably believes to be necessary, either to effect arrest or to defend himself. 

Deadly force by a police officer attempting to effect an arrest, may be justified by evidence indicating the defendant reasonably believes that there is no alternative method of effecting the arrest and that deadly force is necessary as a last resort. The reasonableness of a police officer's conduct in using deadly force while making an arrest must be assessed on the basis of the information the police officer had when he acted. It is quite reasonable for a police officer, who uses a deadly weapon in deadly fashion against a person armed with a knife, to obtain a weapon that will afford him a means of protecting himself against the knife and intimidating the person to be arrested. 

But where a police officer arms himself with a weapon to arrest a man armed with a knife, and then uses the weapon in a deadly fashion without first giving the person an opportunity to submit and without determining whether the person intends to use the knife to prevent arrest, this use of force cannot be viewed as a last resort necessary to the arrest not as reasonably necessary to protect the police officer from serious bodily injury. 

While a police officer may use force to effect an arrest and to protect himself and other citizens, he may not use force simply to punish people he dislikes or those he decides have done wrong. The principal functions of the police officer are to preserve peace and order and to apprehend lawbreakers so that they may be tried by the courts and handled justly. Punishment is no part of the police officer's assignment. A policeman who chooses to mete out punishment violates his office and does so at his own peril.

The Supreme Court further held that it is not unreasonable for a trial court to conclude that a police officer, claiming to effect an arrest, who hits a person four times with a mangrove coconut husker and kills him was indeed trying to kill him. 

Meitou v. Uwera (1991)

This State Court judgment held that in making an otherwise lawful arrest, a police officer may use whatever force is reasonably necessary to effect the arrest, and no more; he must avoid using unnecessary violence. 

The Court further held that the use of force by police officers is not privileged or justified when the arrestee was so drunk and unstable to resist or defend himself and when the police officer used force because he was enraged at being insulted by the arrestee.

Downloads

1979 Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia