Constitutional Provisions

The 1980 Constitution of Vanuatu (as amended) protects fundamental human rights, including to life, liberty, security of the person, protection of the law, and freedom from inhuman treatment.S. 5(1), 1980 Constitution of Vanuatu (as amended).The rights to life and freedom from inhuman treatment are non-derogable.S. 71(1), 1980 Constitution of Vanuatu (as amended).These rights may be enforced by application to the Supreme Court.S. 6(1), 1980 Constitution of Vanuatu (as amended).

The Constitution recognises the freedom of assembly, subject to any restrictions imposed by law on non-citizens and to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and to the legitimate public interest in defence, safety, public order, welfare and health.

The Constitution does not refer to the nation's police force.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties

1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 Not party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints No
CAT Optional Protocol 1 Not party
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 Vanuatu Police Force is a small law enforcement agency headquartered in the capital, Port Vila.

It is generally provided under the 1981 Penal Code with respect to any person (not only a law enforcement official) that:

No criminal responsibility shall attach to the use of such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purpose of –

(a) preventing the commission of an offence (not being an offence against the person acting); or

(b) effecting or assisting the lawful arrest of any offender or suspected offender or any person unlawfully at large.S. 23(4), 1981 Penal Code.

The 1981 Criminal Procedure Code governs the use of force during arrest by a law enforcement official. Section 4 provides that:

(1) The police officer or other person making an arrest shall actually touch or confine the person to be arrested, unless there be a submission to custody by word or action.

(2) If a person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or attempts to evade arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.

(3) Nothing in this section shall justify the use of greater force than is reasonable in the particular circumstances in which it is employed, or is necessary for the arrest.

No specific legislation governs the use of firearms by law enforcement officials.

Police Oversight

There is no dedicated and independent external police oversight body in Vanuatu.



The 2014 Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Vanuatu did not raise issues regarding police use of force. In research by UNICEF, however, cited in the United Nations report for the UPR, police officers reported that they administered corporal punishment in 2% of cases per month where children committed a crime.Summary on Vanuatu prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN doc. A/HRC/WG.6/18/VUT/3, 7 November 2013, para. 16.


There is no regional human rights mechanism governing acts by law enforcement agencies in Vanuatu.


In its report for the 2014 UPR, Vanuatu acknowledged that, with respect to its police: "There are still needs for further improving awareness on human rights issues and international human rights conventions in Vanuatu. "


1980 Constitution of Vanuatu (as amended)

1981 Penal Code

1981 Criminal Procedure Code of Vanuatu (as amended through 2003)