Article IV of the 1979 Constitution of the Republic of Palau addresses fundamental rights. Section 6 stipulates that the government "shall take no action to deprive any person of life ... without due process of law". Section 10 prohibits torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. Under Section 3, the government "shall take no action to impair or deny the right of any person to peacefully assemble".
In Article XIII of the Constitution ("General Provisions"), Section 12 stipulates that only armed force personnel and law enforcement officials operating in an official capacity shall be allowed to possess firearms and ammunition.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Signatory|
|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|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Not 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 Palau Police is the national police service. The use of force for law enforcement purposes is specifically regulated by the Palau Penal Code.Under Section 300 of the Code, “Force” means any bodily impact, restraint, or confinement, or the threat thereof.Therein it is stipulated in Section 307(a) that
the use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the actor is making or assisting in making an arrest and the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary to effect a lawful arrest.
The provision does not set out general restrictions on how much force may be used. According to the Section 2015 of the law on criminal procedure, however, "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."
With respect to police use of firearms, the Penal Code states that: "use of deadly force is not justifiable"Under Section 300(2) of the Penal Code "Deadly force” is defined to mean "force that the actor uses with the intent of causing or that the actor knows to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily harm. Intentionally using a weapon capable of producing death or serious bodily injury constitutes deadly force. A threat to cause death or serious bodily injury, by the production of a weapon or otherwise, so long as the actor’s intent is limited to creating an apprehension that the actor will use deadly force if necessary, does not constitute deadly force".unless:
(1) The arrest is for a felony; and
(2) The person effecting the arrest is authorized to act as a law enforcement officer or is assisting a person whom he or she believes to be authorized to act as a law enforcement officer; and
(3) The actor believes that the force employed creates no substantial risk of injury to innocent persons; and
(4) The actor believes that:
(A) The crimes for which the arrest is made involved conduct including the use or threatened use of deadly force; or
(B) There is a substantial risk that the person to be arrested will cause death or serious bodily injury if his or her apprehension is delayed.
These provisions are more permissive than international law allows.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
Section 307(d) of the Penal Code provides that:
The use of force to prevent the escape of an arrested person from custody is justifiable when the force could justifiably have been employed to effect the arrest under which the person is in custody, except that a guard or other person authorized to act as a law enforcement officer is justified in using force that he or she believes to be immediately necessary to prevent the escape from a detention facility.
There is no independent civilian police oversight body in Palau.
Palau has not adhered to either the ICCPR or the CAT. The 2016 Universal Periodic Review of Palau did not address the issue of police use of force, although UNESCO noted that Palau had not adopted a programme to provide human rights education for police officers.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child's 2018 Concluding Observations on Palau did not address use of force by police officers although in the 2016 UPR the issue of physical punishment of juvenile offenders had been raised.
There is no regional human rights mechanism with oversight for acts by law enforcement agencies in Palau.
In 2012, Police from Palau's Fish and Wildlife Division fired warning shots at a Chinese boat when it failed stop after being challenged. A crew member of the boat that allegedly poached giant clams off the waters of Palau was shot dead during the confrontation. Police use of a firearm purely to protect property is not permissible under international law.