The 1875 Constitution of the Kingdom of Tonga (as amended through 2016) does not explicitly protect the rights to life and freedom from torture but it is specified that:
No one shall be intimidated into giving evidence against himself nor shall the life or property or liberty of anyone be taken away except according to law.Section 14, 1875 Constitution of the Kingdom of Tonga (as amended through 2016).
|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|
|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 use of force by the Tonga Police is governed by the 2010 Tonga Police Act. Section 100(1) of the Act empowers a police officer to use "reasonable and proportionate force" in the exercise of his or her policing powers. Section 100(2) of the Act stipulates that
The force that a police officer may use under this section shall not include force that is likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm to a person unless it is necessary to prevent death or serious injury to the police officer or another person.
It was reported by stakeholders in the context of the Universal Periodic Review of Tonga in 2018 that corporal punishment in the form of whipping remains lawful in Tonga as a sentence for males under the Criminal Offences Act.
Independent civilian oversight over the Tonga Police is exercised by the National Ombudsman.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Bodies
Tonga is not a state party to the ICCPR or CAT. The 2018 report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Tonga, convened under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, stated that:
Tonga did not tolerate police brutality. Since the enactment of the Tonga Police Act 2010, there had been a decrease in the rate of civil cases against the Tongan Police, mainly due to the internal disciplinary processes and procedures within the Act. The Ombudsman’s Office also provided an effective external mechanism within the political framework to deal with complaints against the police, which included police brutality.
In its national report to the UPR, Tonga stated that:
The Tonga Police in their proposal for the establishment of a Committee to consider the ratification of CAT stated that CAT will provide a legal framework for a “zero tolerance” approach to torture and abuse, assist police, corrections facility officers and other forces by its clear guidance on the issue of accountability for their actions.
There is no regional human rights mechanism with oversight for acts by law enforcement agencies in Tonga.
In its national report for the UPR, Tonga reported that:
... Tonga does not tolerate police brutality. Five police officers were prosecuted for manslaughter and assault on a Tongan New Zealand Police Officer who was visiting Tonga. Two of the police officers were convicted of manslaughter and one Police Officer was convicted of common assault. The civilian involved was convicted on a separate trial by a judge and jury with causing grievous harm to the victim.Rex v. Hala’ufia and others (Unreported, CR35,36,91,92,93-13, Cato J).