Constitutional amendment empowering Defence Forces to be challenged in court |24 September 2022
The recently enacted Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles (Tenth Amendment) Act, 2022 which empowers the Defence Forces to carry out internal law enforcement in Seychelles outside of the context of a public emergency is being challenged, through the Constitutional Court.
The case will for the first time be mentioned on Tuesday, September 27, and will see the Seychelles Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman and Bar Association of Seychelles up against the government, following the lodging of a joint petition with the court on Tuesday, September 13.
In a joint press communiqué circulated yesterday, the organisations assert their shared concerns that the Tenth Amendment “undermines the democratic protections afforded by the Constitution, in particular due process, the rule of law and human rights”.
“We hold the view that the Constitution has a clear democratic purpose. The basic contention of our petition is that the Constitution may not be amended to erode any of those basic democratic structures or guarantees or otherwise undermine its democratic purpose – at least not by the procedure adopted in the Tenth Amendment,” the communiqué reads.
In light of the national importance and possible far-reaching implications of the amendment, the parties are seeking a determination of the Court, on the constitutionality of the amendment, as well as the process involved in its enactment. The determination, it is hoped, will provide guidance for future amendments to the Constitution, the supreme law of the country, while also contributing to the jurisprudence of the Seychelles as a sovereign democratic Republic.
President Wavel Ramkalawan assented to the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles (Tenth Amendment) Act, 2022 on June 14, 2022, following National Assembly approval on May 31, 2022.
The amendment is said to have stemmed from the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee of 2008, to crystalise the functions and powers of the defence forces.
Through the amendment, government seeks to make it clear in the Constitution that the force can exercise powers to enforce any written law of the land in relation to a variety of matters, including maritime security, environmental protection and public security.
President Ramkalawan, in his statement before assenting to the Bill, emphasised that “the military will not be replacing the police force. The military will merely provide support to the police force and other public authorities in dealing with a wide range of issues such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, quarantine, search and rescue, oil spill response measures, hijacking and hostage situations”.
He also said that there is no need for the public to be fearful of the amendments.
However, over recent weeks, there has been public outcry over the military-assisted police operations.
It is important to note that the Seychelles Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman and Bar Association raised their concerns when the Bill was presented to the National Assembly, but were not given the opportunity to engage with the institution’s Bills Committee.
“We believe that the legislative process followed has impacted the fundamental principles on which our democracy is founded,” the joint communiqué further states.
Compiled by Laura Pillay