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Constitution of Palau (1981, rev. 1992)

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4In exercising our inherent sovereignty, We, the people of Palau proclaim and reaffirm our immemorial right to be supreme in these islands of Palau, our homeland. We renew our dedication to preserve and enhance our traditional heritage, our national identity and our respect for peace, freedom and justice for all mankind. In establishing this Constitution of the sovereign Republic of Palau, We venture into the future with full reliance on our own efforts and the divine guidance of Almighty God.



7Palau shall have jurisdiction and sovereignty over its territory which shall consist of all of the islands of the Palauan archipelago, the internal waters, the territorial waters, extending to two hundred (200) nautical miles from a straight archipelagic baseline, the seabed, subsoil, water column, insular shelves, and airspace over land and water, unless otherwise limited by international treaty obligations assumed by Palau. The straight archipelagic baseline shall be drawn from the northernmost point of Ngeruangel Reef, thence east to the northernmost point of Kayangel Island and around the island to its easternmost point, south to the easternmost point of Helen's Reef, west from the southernmost point of Helen's Reef to the easternmost point of Tobi Island and then around the island to its westernmost point, north to the westernmost point of Fana Island, and north to the westernmost point of Ngeruangel Reef and then around the reef to the point of origin.


9Each state shall have exclusive ownership of all living and non-living resources, except highly migratory fish, from the land to twelve (12) nautical miles seaward from the traditional baselines; provided, however, that traditional fishing rights and practices shall not be impaired.


11The national government shall have the power to add territory and to extend jurisdiction.


13Nothing in this Article shall be interpreted to violate the right of innocent passage and the internationally recognized freedom of the high seas.



16This Constitution is the supreme law of the land.


18Any law, act of government, or agreement to which a government of Palau is a party, shall not conflict with this Constitution and shall be invalid to the extent of such conflict.


20Major governmental powers including but not limited to defense, security, or foreign affairs may be delegated by treaty, compact, or other agreement between the sovereign Republic of Palau and another sovereign nation or international organization, provided such treaty, compact or agreement shall be approved by not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau and by a majority of the votes cast in a nationwide referendum conducted for such purpose, provided, that any such agreement which authorizes use, testing, storage or disposal of nuclear, toxic chemical, gas or biological weapons intended for use in warfare shall require approval of not less than three-fourths (3/4) of the votes cast in such referendum.



23A person who is a citizen of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands immediately prior to the effective date of this Constitution and who has at least one parent of recognized Palauan ancestry is a citizen of Palau.


25A person born of parents, one or both of whom are citizens of Palau is a citizen of Palau by birth, and shall remain a citizen of Palau so long as the person is not or does not become a citizen of any other nation.


27A citizen of Palau who is a citizen of another nation shall, within three (3) years after his eighteenth (18) birthday, or within three (3) years after the effective date of this Constitution, whichever is later, renounce his citizenship of the other nation and register his intent to remain a citizen of Palau. If he fails to comply with this requirement, he shall be deprived of Palauan citizenship.


29A person born of parents, one or both of whom are of recognized Palauan ancestry, shall have the right to enter and reside in Palau and to enjoy other rights and privileges as provided by law, which shall include the right to petition to become a naturalized citizen of Palau; provided, that prior to becoming a naturalized citizen, a person must renounce his citizenship by naturalization except pursuant to this section.


31The Olbiil Era Kelulau shall adopt uniform laws for admission and exclusion of noncitizens of Palau.



34The government shall take no action to deny or impair the freedom of conscience or of philosophical or religious belief of any person nor take any action to compel, prohibit or hinder the exercise of religion. The government shall not recognize or establish a national religion, but may provide assistance to private or parochial schools on a fair and equitable basis for nonreligious purposes.


36The government shall take no action to deny or impair the freedom of expression or press. No bona fide reporter may be required by the government to divulge or be jailed for refusal to divulge information obtained in the course of a professional investigation.


38The government shall take no action to deny or impair the right of any person to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances or to associate with others for any lawful purpose including the right to organize and to bargain collectively.


40Every person has the right to be secure in his person, house, papers and effects against entry, search and seizure.


42Every person shall be equal under the law and shall be entitled to equal protection. The government shall take no action to discriminate against any person on the basis of sex, race, place of origin, language, religion or belief, social status or clan affiliation except for the preferential treatment of citizens, for the protection of minors, elderly, indigent, physically or mentally handicapped, and other similar groups, and in matters concerning intestate succession and domestic relations. No person shall be treated unfairly in legislative or executive investigation.


44The government shall take no action to deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law nor shall private property be taken except for a recognized public use and for just compensation in money or in kind. No person shall be held criminally liable for an act which was not a legally recognized crime at the time of its commission, nor shall the penalty for an act be increased after the act was committed. No person shall be placed in double jeopardy for the same offense. No person shall be found guilty of a crime or punished by legislation. Contracts to which a citizen is a party shall not be impaired by legislation. No person shall be imprisoned for debt. A warrant for search and seizure may not issue except from a justice or judge on probable cause supported by an affidavit particularly describing the place, persons, or things to be searched, arrested, or seized.


46A person accused of a criminal offense shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and shall enjoy the right to be informed of the nature of the accusation and to a speedy, public and impartial trial. He shall be permitted full opportunity to examine all witnesses and shall have the right of compulsory process for obtaining witnesses and evidence on his behalf at public expense. He shall not be compelled to testify against himself. At all times the accused shall have the right to counsel. If the accused is unable to afford counsel, he shall be assigned counsel by the government. Accused persons lawfully detained shall be separated from convicted criminals and on the basis of sex and age. Bail may not be unreasonably excessive nor denied those accused and detained before trial. The writ of habeas corpus is hereby recognized and may not be suspended. The national government may be held liable in a civil action for unlawful arrest or damage to private property as prescribed by law. Coerced or forced confessions shall not be admitted into evidence nor may a person be convicted or punished solely on the basis of a confession without corroborating evidence.


48A victim of a criminal offense may be compensated by the government as prescribed by law or at the discretion of the court.


50A citizen of Palau may enter and leave Palau and may migrate within Palau.


52Torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and excessive fines are prohibited.


54Slavery or involuntary servitude is prohibited except to punish crime. The government shall protect children from exploitation.


56A citizen has the right to examine any government document and to observe the official deliberations of any agency of government.


58The government shall provide for marital and related parental rights, privileges and responsibilities on the basis of equality between men and women, mutual consent and cooperation. Parents or individuals acting in the capacity of parents shall be legally responsible for the support and for the unlawful conduct of their minor children as prescribed by law.



61The government shall take no action to prohibit or revoke the role or function of a traditional leader as recognized by custom and tradition which is not inconsistent with this Constitution, nor shall it prevent a traditional leader from being recognized, honored, or given formal or functional roles at any level of government.


63Statutes and traditional law shall be equally authoritative. In case of conflict between a statute and a traditional law, the statute shall prevail only to the extent it is not in conflict with the underlying principles of the traditional law.


65The national government shall take positive action to attain these national objectives and implement these national policies: conservation of a beautiful, healthful and resourceful natural environment; promotion of the national economy; protection of the safety and security of persons and property; promotion of the health and social welfare of the citizens through the provision of free or subsidized health care; and provision of public education for citizens which shall be free and compulsory as prescribed by law.


67A citizen of Palau eighteen (18) years of age or older may vote in national and state elections. The Olbiil Era Kelulau shall prescribe a minimum period of residence and provide voter registration for national elections. Each state shall prescribe a minimum period of residence and provide for voter registration for state elections. A citizen who is in prison, serving a sentence for a felony, or mentally incompetent as determined by a court may not vote.



70The President shall be the Chief Executive of the national government.


72The Vice President shall serve as a member of the cabinet and have such other responsibilities as may be assigned by the President.


74Any citizen of Palau who is not less than thirty-five (35) years of age and has been a resident of Palau for the five (5) years immediately preceding the election shall be eligible to hold the office of President or Vice President.


76The President and Vice President shall be elected in a nationwide election for a term of four years. A person may not serve as President for more than two consecutive terms.


78The cabinet shall consist of the heads of the major executive departments created by law. The cabinet members shall be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and shall serve at the will of the President. No person may serve in a legislature and the cabinet at the same time.


80A Council of Chiefs composed of a traditional chief from each of the states shall advise the President on matters concerning traditional laws, customs and their relationship to this Constitution and the laws of Palau. No person shall be a member of the Council of Chiefs unless he has been appointed and accepted as a chief in a traditional manner, and is recognized as such by the traditional council of chiefs of his state. No chief shall serve in the Council of Chiefs while serving as a member of the Olbiil Era Kelulau or the cabinet.


82The President shall have all the inherent powers and duties of a national chief executive, including, but not limited to the following: enforce the law of the land; conduct negotiations with foreign nations and to make treaties with the advice and consent of the Olbiil Era Kelulau; appoint ambassadors and other national officers with the advice and consent of the Senate; appoint judges from a list of nominees submitted to him by the Judicial Nominating Commission; grant pardons, commutations and reprieves subject to procedures prescribed by law and to suspend and remit fines and forfeitures, provided this power shall not extend to impeachment; spend money pursuant to appropriations and to collect taxes; represent the national government in all legal actions; and propose an annual budget.


92The compensation of the President and Vice President shall be established by law.


94The President or Vice President may be impeached and removed from office for treason, bribery, or other serious crimes by a vote of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.


96The President or Vice President may be removed from office by a recall. A recall is initiated by a resolution adopted by not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of the state legislatures in not less than three-fourths (3/4) of the states. Upon receipt by the presiding officers of the Olbiil Era Kelulau of the required number of certified resolutions, the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall establish a special election board to supervise a nationwide recall referendum to be held not less than thirty (30) days nor more than sixty (60) days, after receipt of the required number of certified resolutions.


98The Vice President shall succeed to the office of President if it becomes vacant. If the vacancy occurs due to death, resignation or disability and more than one hundred and eighty (180) days remain in the term, a national election for the offices of the President and Vice President for the remaining term shall be held within two months of such vacancy. In the event that the offices of both the President and the Vice President become vacant, the order of succession to the presidency shall be as follows: presiding officer of the Senate, presiding officer of the House of Delegates, and then as provided by law.


100The President may introduce legislative measures in the Olbiil Era Kelulau.


102The President shall make an annual report to the Olbiil Era Kelulau on the progress of his administration.


104Whenever war, external aggression, civil rebellion or natural catastrophe threatens the lives or property of a significant number of people in Palau, the President may declare a state of emergency and temporarily assume such legislative powers as may be necessary to afford immediate and specific relief to those lives or property so threatened. At the time of the declaration of a state of emergency, the President shall call a meeting of the Olbiil Era Kelulau to confirm or disapprove the state of emergency. The President shall not exercise emergency powers for a period of more than ten (10) days without the express and continuing consent of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.



107The legislative power of Palau shall be vested in the Olbiil Era Kelulau which shall consist of two houses, the House of Delegates and the Senate.


109Senators and Delegates shall be elected for a term of four (4) years.


111The House of Delegates shall be composed of one delegate to be popularly elected from each of the states of Palau. The Senate shall be composed of the number of senators prescribed from time to time by the reappointment commission as provided by law.


113a. A reapportionment commission shall be constituted every eight (8) years not less than one hundred eighty (180) days before the next regular general election. Not less than one hundred twenty (120) days before the regular general election, the commission shall publish a reapportionment or redistricting plan for the Senate based on population, which shall become law upon publication.

114b. A member of the reapportionment commission shall not be eligible to become a candidate for election to the Senate in the next regular general election under a reapportionment or redistricting plan prepared by the commission.

115c. Upon the petition of any voter within sixty (60) days after the promulgation of a plan by the reapportionment commission, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction to review the plan and to amend it to comply with the requirements of this Constitution. If a reapportionment or redistricting plan for the Senate is not published before the applicable 120-day period, the Supreme Court shall promulgate within ninety (90) days before the next regular general election, a reapportionment or redistricting plan.


117The Olbiil Era Kelulau shall have the following powers: levy and collect taxes, duties and excises, which shall be uniformly applied throughout the nation; borrow money on the credit of the national government to finance public program or to settle public debt; regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states; regulate immigration and establish a uniform system of naturalization; establish uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy; provide a monetary and banking system and to create or designate a national currency; ratify treaties by a vote of a majority of the members of each house; approve presidential appointment[s] by a vote of not less [than] two-thirds (2/3) of the members of the Senate; establish diplomatic immunities; regulate banking, insurance, and issuance and use of commercial paper and securities, and patents and copyrights; provide for a national postal system; regulate the ownership, exploration and exploitation of natural resources; regulate navigation, shipping, and the use of navigable waters; regulate the use of air space; delegate authority to the states and administrative agencies; impeach and remove the President, Vice President, and Justices of the Supreme Court by a vote of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house; provide for the national defense; create or consolidate states with the approval of the states affected; confirm or disapprove a state of emergency declared by the President; provide for the general welfare, peace and security; and enact any laws which shall be necessary and proper for exercising the foregoing powers and all other inherent powers vested by this Constitution in the government of Palau.


140To be eligible to hold office in the Olbiil Era Kelulau, a person must be:

1411.a citizen;

1422.not less than twenty-five (25) years of age;

1433.a resident of Palau for not less than five (5) years immediately preceding the election; and

1444.a resident of the district in which he wishes to run for office for not less than one (1) year immediately preceding the election.


146A vacancy in the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall be filled for the unexpired term by a special election to be held in accordance with law. If less than one hundred eighty (180) days remain in the unexpired term, the seat will remain vacant until the next regular general election.


148The compensation of the members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall be determined by law. No increase in compensation shall apply to the members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau during the term of enactment, nor may an increase in compensation be enacted in the period between the date of a regular general election and the date a new Olbiil Era Kelulau takes office.


150No member of either house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall be held to answer in any other place for any speech or debate in the Olbiil Era Kelulau. The members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall be privileged, in all cases except treason, felony, or breach of peace, from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of the Olbiil Era Kelulau and in going to and from the sessions.


152Each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall be the sole judge of the election and qualifications of its members, may discipline a member, and, by a vote of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of its members may suspend or expel a member. A member may not hold any other public office or public employment while a member of the Olbiil Era Kelulau.


154Each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall convene its meeting on the second Tuesday in January following the regular general election and may meet regularly for four (4) years. Either house may be convened at any time by the presiding officer, or at the written request of the majority of the members, or by the President.


156Each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall promulgate its own rules and procedures not inconsistent with this Constitution and the laws of Palau, and may compel the attendance of absent members. A majority of the members of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business. Each house, with the approval of a majority of its members, may compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books and papers before that house or its committees.


158Each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall elect a presiding officer by a majority of the members of that house. Each house shall elect such other officers and employ such staff as it deems necessary and appropriate.


160The Olbiil Era Kelulau may enact no law except by bill. Each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall establish a procedure for the enactment of bills into law. No bill may become a law unless it has been adopted by a majority of the members of each house present on three (3) separate readings, each reading to be held on a separate day. No bill may become a law unless it contains the following enacting clause: THE PEOPLE OF PALAU REPRESENTED IN THE OLBIIL KELULAU DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:


162A bill adopted by each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall be presented to the President and shall become law when signed by the President. If the President vetoes a bill, it shall be returned to each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau within fifteen (15) calendar days with a statement of reasons for the veto. The President may reduce or veto an item in an appropriation bill and sign the remainder to the bill, returning the item reduced or vetoed to each house within fifteen (15) calendar days together with the reason for his action; or refer a bill to each house with recommendations for amendment. A bill not signed, vetoed, or referred within fifteen (15) calendar days of presentation to the President shall become law. A bill or item of a bill vetoed or reduced by the President may be considered by each house within thirty (30) calendar days of its return and shall become law as originally adopted upon approval of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house. The Olbiil Era Kelulau, by the approval of a majority of the members present of each house, may pass a bill referred by the President in accordance with the President's recommendation for change and return it to the President for reconsideration. The President may not refer a bill for amendment a second time.


164The Olbiil Era Kelulau, with the approval of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house, may release funds appropriated by the Olbiil Era Kelulau but impounded by the President.


166The people may recall a member of the Olbiil Era Kelulau from office. A recall is initiated by a petition which shall name the member sought to be recalled, state the grounds for recall, and be signed by not less than twenty-five percent (25%) of the number of persons [that] voted in the most recent election for that member of the Olbiil Era Kelulau. A special recall election shall be held not later than sixty (60) calendar days after the filing of the recall petition. A member of the Olbiil Era Kelulau shall be removed from office only with the approval of a majority of the persons voting in the election, and such vacancy shall be filled by a special election to be held in accordance with law. A recall may be sought against an individual member of the Olbiil Era Kelulau no more than once per term. No recall shall be permitted against a member who is serving the first year of his first term in the Olbiil Era Kelulau.



169The judicial power of Palau shall be voted in a unified judiciary, consisting of a Supreme Court, a National Court, and such inferior courts of limited jurisdiction as may be established by law. All courts except the Supreme Court may be divided geographically and functionally as provided by law, or judicial rules not inconsistent with law.


171The Supreme Court is a Court of Record consisting of an appellate division and a trial division. The Supreme Court shall be composed of a Chief of Justice and not less than three (3) nor more than six (6) Associate Justices, all of whom shall be members of both divisions. All appeals shall be heard by at least three justices. Matters before the trial division may be heard by one justice. No justice may hear or decide an appeal of a matter heard by him in the trial division.


173If the Chief Justice is unable to perform his duties, he shall appoint an Associate Justice to act in his place. If the office of Chief Justice becomes vacant and the Chief Justice has failed to appoint an Acting Chief Justice to act in his place, the President shall appoint an Associate Justice to act as Chief Justice until the vacancy is filled or the Chief Justice resumes his duties.


175The National Court shall consist of a presiding judge and such other judges as may be provided by law.


177The judicial power shall extend to all matters in law and equity. The trial division of the Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all matters affecting Ambassadors, other Public Ministers and Consuls, admiralty and maritime cases, and those matters in which the national government or a state government is a party. In all other cases, the National Court shall have original and concurrent jurisdiction with the trial division of the Supreme Court.


179The appellate division of the Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction to review all decisions of the trial division and all decisions of lower courts.


181The Judicial Nominating Commission shall consist of seven (7) members, one of whom shall be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who shall act as Chairman. The Bar shall elect three (3) of its members to serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission and the President shall appoint three (3) citizens who are not members of the Bar. The Judicial Nominating Commission shall meet upon the call of the Chairman and prepare and submit to the President a list of seven (7) nominees for the positions of justice and judge. A new list shall be submitted every year.


183No person shall be eligible to hold judicial office in the Supreme Court or National Court unless he has been admitted to practice law before the highest court of a state or country in which he is admitted to practice for at least five (5) years preceding his appointment. Any justice of the Supreme Court or judge of the National Court who becomes a candidate for an elective office shall, upon filing for such office, forfeit his judicial office.


185All justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the National Court shall hold their offices during good behavior. They shall be eligible for retirement upon attaining the age of sixty-five (65) years.


187A justice of the Supreme Court may be impeached only for the commission of treason, bribery, other high crimes, or improper practices, or on the grounds of his inability to discharge the functions of his office upon a vote of not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the members of each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau. The judges of the National Court and the inferior courts may be impeached by a majority vote of the members of each house of the Olbiil Era Kelulau. During his impeachment or removal proceedings, a justice or judge may not exercise the power of his office. A justice or judge shall forfeit his office upon conviction of a felony or any high crime.


189The justices and judges shall receive compensation as prescribed by law. Such compensation shall not be diminished during their term of office.


191The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall be the administrative head of the unified judicial system. He may assign judges from one geographical department or functional division of a court to another department or division of that court and he may assign judges for temporary service in another court. The Chief Justice shall appoint with the approval of the Associate Justices, an administrative director to supervise the administrative operation of the judicial system.


193The Chief Justice shall prepare and submit through the President to the Olbiil Era Kelulau an annual consolidated budget for the entire unified judicial system. The national government shall bear the total cost of the system unless the Olbiil Era Kelulau requires reimbursement of appropriate portions of such cost by the state governments.


195The Supreme Court shall promulgate rules governing the administration of the courts, legal and judicial professions, and practice and procedure in civil and criminal matters.



198The structure and organization of state governments shall follow democratic principles, traditions of Palau, and shall not be inconsistent with this Constitution. The national government shall assist in the organization of state government.


200All governmental powers not expressly delegated by this Constitution to the states nor denied to the national government are powers of the national government. The national government may delegate powers by law to the state governments.

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