Seychelles’ parliament amends Constitution – No more separation of the military from civil policing
The Seychelles National Assembly voted for an amendment to the Constitution of the island state on Wednesday that gives the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) the right to enforce domestic law in relation to public security, environmental protection and maritime security.
Effectively, the amendment gives a fifth function to the military and enables it to work alongside the Seychelles Police outside of states of emergency.
When presenting the amendment to the Constitution, Vice-President Ahmed Afif said that while there have been changes to the Defence Act, under the Constitution, the SDF only had four functions previously. These functions are to defend Seychelles – an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean – and its territory; to assist the state with its international obligations; to assist the civil authority in emergency cases and disasters in keeping peace and order if asked by the president, and finally to participate in civil work for national development.
“The question, therefore, is where in the Constitution, does it permit the SDF to assist the police in its duties as the Defence Act states. The amendment follows the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee,” he added.
Discussions on the topic took place throughout the day and ended with all members of the ruling party, Linyon Demokratik Seselwa party (LDS), voting for the amendment, while members of the United Seychelles (US) opposition party voted against.
Ombudsman says constitutional amendment does not sit well with notion of democracy
When the Defence (Amendment) Bill was published in the Official Gazette on May 5, 2022, the Ombudsman, Nichole Tirant-Ghérardi, gave her opinion on the 10th amendment of the Constitution of Seychelles.
Tirant-Ghérardi said it had considered the provisions of the proposed bill together with the original draft bill and that the decision to seek to amend the Constitution of Seychelles is a violation of the letter and spirit of the Supreme Law of the land for a number of reasons.
One of the reasons is that the separation of civil policing from the role of the military occurred for fundamental reasons that Seychelles valued as a cornerstone of the Third Republic democracy.
“The spectre of members of the defence forces maintaining law and order or running any essential service in the country on a permanent or semi-permanent basis does not sit well with that notion of democracy even if the defence forces may assist civil authorities by providing technical assistance usually in connection with minor matters beyond the expertise of the police. Any contemporary discussion of a change to that balance must consider all aspects, including the effect of such a change within the existing legal framework,” said Ombudsman Tirant-Ghérardi.
She also said that the amendment fails to address issues of civil liability that may arise out of this cooperation.
“Any laws regulating the activities of the Defence Forces must be consistent with the constitutional authority. Therefore, if the maintenance of law and order is primarily the responsibility of the civilian Police Force, full consideration must be given to what would be the outcome should something go wrong when the Defence Forces perform those extra-curricular activities within the civilian community. For example, should a civilian be killed by a member of the Defence Forces in a law enforcement or rescue operation,” the Ombudsman added.