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Enhanced status and a Bill of Rights in Tristan's new constitution
Tristan da Cunha has enhanced its international status by virtue of its new constitutional title. Formerly part of the UK's Overseas Territory of St Helena and Dependencies, the Overseas Territory will now be called St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Even though the Territory's Governor will be resident on St Helena, the new constitution gives equal weight to detailed provisions for Tristan da Cunha, which encompass a bill of rights for its citizens.

The new constitution was ordered by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Court at Buckingham Palace on 8th July 2009.

Selected quotes from the St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009 ~

Her Majesty, in exercise of the powers conferred upon Her by section 112 of the Saint Helena Act 1833(1), the British Settlements Acts 1887 and 1945(2) and of all other powers enabling Her to do so, is pleased, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, to order, and it is ordered, as follows:

The people of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha:

(a) wishing to affirm their allegiance to the United Kingdom, its Government and the Crown;

e) also recalling that Tristan da Cunha was garrisoned and possessed by Britain in 1816, and that by Letters Patent of King George VI dated 12 January 1938 the islands of Tristan da Cunha, Gough, Nightingale and Inaccessible became Dependencies of St Helena;

i) noting the resourcefulness of the people of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha and their respect for government under the law that has made the islands safe havens in the South Atlantic over the centuries;

(j) mindful of the fact that, while separate territories, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha form a single territorial grouping under the Crown;

(k) wishing to continue as communities of tolerance, with respect for government and the law, Christian and family values and protection of the environment;

(l) committed to government in partnership with the United Kingdom on the basis of mutual obligations and responsibilities, to democratic principles and to promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms;

are determined, with the United Kingdom Government and other members of the international community, to build a sound future on the islands for their local communities on the basis of this Constitution.

The new constitution was made on 8th July, laid before parliament on 15th July and will come into force on 1st September 2009.

For reaction to the new constitution, and a link to the full Hansard text, see our Tristan in Parliament page, for reaction see our Government News page, and for Island Council related constitution issues see the Island Council Page.

Partnership Values and Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual

To give our visitors a flavour of the constitution we reproduce below these crucial value statements which underpin the ethos of the new Constitution:

The partnership values

186.—(1) The partnership between the United Kingdom and Tristan da Cunha shall continue to be based on the following values—

(a) good faith;

(b) the rule of law;

(c) good government;

(d) sound financial management;

(e) the impartial administration of justice;

(f) the impartiality of the Tristan da Cunha Public Service;

(g) the maintenance of public order;

(h) compliance with applicable international obligations of the United Kingdom and of Tristan da Cunha; and

(i) the maintenance of international peace and security and the right of individual or collective self-defence.

(2) The relationships between each of Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and Ascension shall continue to be based on the values listed in subsection (1) and a willingness to have due regard for one another’s interests.

(3) In exercising their responsibilities and powers, all organs of government in Tristan da Cunha have a duty to give effect to the partnership values.

(4) As the partnership values are statements of political principle, no court shall find that any act or omission of an organ of government was unlawful on account of a failure to give effect to the partnership values.

(5) Subject to subsection (4), the Supreme Court may enquire, but only on an application for judicial review, whether or not any organ of government (other than the Governor) has acted rationally and with procedural propriety in relation to giving effect to a partnership value.

Fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual

187.  Whereas every person in Tristan da Cunha is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, has the right, without distinction of any kind, such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, age, disability, birth or other status, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest, to each and all of the following—

(a) life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law;

(b) freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association;

(c) protection for his or her private and family life, the privacy of his or her home and other property; and

(d) protection from deprivation of property save in the public interest and on payment of fair compensation,

this Part shall afford protection to these rights and freedoms, and to related rights and freedoms, subject to the limitations contained in this Part, being limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the protected rights and freedoms by any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.

For a link to the full Hansard text, see our Tristan in Parliament page where the full 104 page PDF document can be downloaded.

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