Law of Tuvalu
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The Law of Tuvalu comprises the legislation voted into law by the Parliament of Tuvalu and statutory instruments that become law; certain Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom (during the time Tuvalu was either a British protectorate or British colony); the common law; and customary law (particularly in relation to the ownership of land). The land tenure system is largely based on kaitasi (extended family ownership).
The Constitution of Tuvalu states that it is "the supreme law of Tuvalu" and that "all other laws shall be interpreted and applied subject to this Constitution"; it sets out the Principles of the Bill of Rights and the Protection of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
Laws of Tuvalu Act 1987
By virtue of section 42(2) of the Laws of Tuvalu Act 1987, the Law of Tuvalu includes customary law. Schedule 1 paragraph 3 and 4 of the Laws of Tuvalu Act 1987 require that courts must take customary law into account when considering specified matters in criminal and civil proceedings.
The law that existed at the time of independence is preserved in Schedule 5 sections 1 and 2 of the Constitution as “any Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Orders of Her Majesty in Council, Ordinances, rules, regulations, orders or other instruments having effect as part of the law of Tuvalu”, subject to these laws not being in conflict with any provisions in the Constitution. This provision is reinforced by the Laws of Tuvalu Act 1987: “An Act to declare what constitutes the Laws of Tuvalu”.
Section 4 of the Laws of Tuvalu Act 1987 describes the laws as being derived from: the Constitution, the law enacted by the Parliament of Tuvalu, customary law, the common law of Tuvalu and every applied law. ‘Applied law’ is defined in section 7 of that Act as “imperial enactments which have effect as part of the law of Tuvalu”.
The laws of Tuvalu include some statutes from the 1892 to 1916 era when the islands were administered as part of the British protectorate of the British Western Pacific Territories (the ‘Western Pacific Legislation’); other laws were enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom during the time the islands were administered as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (from 1916 to 1974); and the during the time of the Colony of Tuvalu (from 1 January 1976 to 1 October 1978 - prior to independence).
Current laws of Tuvalu
The laws of Tuvalu are published online by the Office of the Attorney General of Tuvalu; also by the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute, with the law set out in the 2008 Revised Edition; with a list of current legislation (up to 2012).
Courts are established in Tuvalu to resolve disputes and to interpret the laws of Tuvalu. There are eight Island Courts and Lands Courts; appeals in relation to land disputes are made to the Lands Courts Appeal Panel. Appeals from the Island Courts and the Lands Courts Appeal Panel are made to the Magistrates Court, which has jurisdiction to hear civil cases involving up to $10,000. The superior court is the High Court of Tuvalu as it has unlimited original jurisdiction and hears appeals from the lower courts.
Sir Gordon Ward is the current Chief Justice of Tuvalu. Rulings of the High Court can be appealed to the Court of Appeal of Tuvalu. From the Court of Appeal there is a right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council, i.e., the Privy Council in London.
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- "Tuvalu – Current Legislation - alphabetical Index". PACLII.
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