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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

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In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                        

Kingdom of Tonga

Prison conditions are generally adequate, police brutality is rare, and crime rates remain relatively low. A number of police officers accused of misconduct have been investigated.

  [Freedom House Country Report, 2018]

Description: Description: Tonga

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Tonga.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Tonga

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 10 August 2021]


The law prohibits such practices and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.


There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 15 May 2020]

IS THERE AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY? - The king retains authority over judicial appointments and dismissals. The Judicial Appointments and Discipline Panel, a committee of the privy council, provides advice on appointments, including for the lord chancellor, who has responsibility for administering the courts. The king in privy council has final jurisdiction over cases in the land court relating to hereditary estates and titles.

The judiciary is regarded as largely independent, but the prime minister has accused the royally appointed attorney general of interfering with judicial rulings, and has pressed for reforms that would bring the attorney general into the orbit of the elected government. Broader judicial reforms that would have increased the cabinet’s influence over judicial appointments were adopted by the parliament in 2014, but the king never gave his assent.

DOES DUE PROCESS PREVAIL IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL MATTERS? - Due process provisions and safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention are typically respected by the authorities. However, there is no mechanism to guarantee access to counsel for indigent defendants.

IS THERE PROTECTION FROM THE ILLEGITIMATE USE OF PHYSICAL FORCE AND FREEDOM FROM WAR AND INSURGENCIES? - Prison conditions are generally adequate, police brutality is rare, and crime rates remain relatively low. A number of police officers accused of misconduct have been investigated, dismissed, or convicted of crimes in recent years.

The Systematic Torture and Abuse of Prisoners by The Government of Tonga Following Civil Unrest in November 2006 [PDF]

The National Centre for Women and Children, Kingdom of Tonga, November 2006

[accessed 11 Feb 2014]


A. ARRESTS - Prisoners reported that the vast majority of injuries that occurred to them and that they had observed on other prisoners occurred during arrest and while in transit to the Nuku’alofa Police Station. These injuries included facial cuts, swelling and bruising; ripped ears; broken and missing teeth; split lips and heavily bruised ribs.

“I saw bloody people come into the cells everyday. People with smashed faces – it just became normal.”

Tonga Defence Service personnel were reported as the main perpetrators of violence against prisoners. The predominant weapon of choice was reported as rifle butts.

A prisoner described how he was sitting in the back seat of a taxi at a checkpoint. His friend in the front passenger seat was talking to a soldier. The prisoner said he made some popping noises with his mouth, imitate

ng a gun through his open window. Without warning another soldier drove the butt of his rifle multiple times into the side of the prisoners head.

Another prisoner described how upon his arrest, he was being transported to the Nuku’alofa Police Station in a TDS vehicle. There were so ldiers and police sitting on both sides of him. A TDS Officer removed his pistol from his holster and hit the prisoner with the flat side of the pistol twice on his head (Refer to Figure 1). The TDS Officer then loaded and cocked his pistol and pointed it at the prisoner, threatening to kill him and saying he “deserved to die”. Police and TDS Officers in the vehicle then described how easy it would be for them to “get rid of” the prisoner without anyone knowing. The prisoner reported that he was bleeding profusely from the strikes to his head and his face, shirt and shorts were covered in blood. The prisoner was made to hide his head below the window level of the vehicle as it drove through town.

Another prisoner described how he did not remember anything about his arrest but regained consciousness on the floor of the prison cell covered in blood from a cut and swelling to his left temple and tear to his left ear (Refer to figures 2 and 3). Other prisoners interviewed described that this prisoner was placed in their cells with serious swelling and bruising to his head and temple area where they noticed that his skin had been scraped away by what they believed was a rifle butt.

One prisoner who was in custody for over 7 days reported that 3 out of 4 prisoners who came into his cell upon arrest during this period had serious head injuries which he said could only be caused by an implement such as a rifle, “fists can not do damage like that.


For more articles:: Search Amnesty International’s website

[accessed 15 January 2019]

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Human Rights Reports » 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 6, 2007

[accessed 14 February 2013]

[accessed 7 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices; however, in December an employee of a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) issued a report alleging abuse by the Tonga Defense Services (TDS) and police of some of the persons arrested following rioting in Nuku'alofa on November 16 (see section 2.b.). The NGO's board later disavowed the report, citing differences with the author's methodology and conclusions and his failure to clear the report prior to release. The Tonga Evangelical Union also wrote a letter to the prime minister expressing concern over reports of abuses, including violence towards underage detainees. The government stated it would investigate the charges. There were also reports of gratuitous violence used during more routine arrests, detentions, and other encounters with the TDS and police.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Tonga",, [accessed <date>]