Marshall Islands

Constitution of the Marshall Islands

Year of Version:1995
Date of Text (Adopted):May 1, 1979
Type of Text:Constitution / Basic Law
Subject Matter:Other
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a Micronesian nation on 29 coral atolls and 5 low-lying islands in the central Pacific, mid-way between Hawaii and Australia.
In 1978 the Marshall Islands in referendum separated from the rest of Micronesia and adopted the Constitution in 1979, which came into effect on May 1, 1979, and established the Marshall Islands a self-governing country.
In 1986, the Compact of Free Association with the United States was signed granting the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) its sovereignty and independence on October 21, 1986. The RMI became a member of the United Nations in 1991.

The 1979 Constitution sets forth a unicameral parliamentary system. However, the President is both Chief of State and Head of Government and is elected by members of the Nitjela (Parliament). This element makes the Government of the Marshall Islands a mixed parliamentary presidential system. The Marshall Islands has a bicameral legislature which consists of two Houses: the lower house or Nitijela (33 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms who have legislative power) and the upper house or Council of Iroij (an advisory body comprising 12 tribal chiefs who advise on customary issues).
The legal system of RMI is based on adapted Trust Territory laws (the American common law), acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws. For example, the Laws of Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks of the United States are applicable in Marshall Islands.

The Preamble of the Constitution guarantees sui generis rights concerning the respect and protection of traditional cultural expressions and traditional knowledge stating: 'All we have and are today as a people, we have received as a sacred heritage which we pledge ourselves to safeguard and maintain, valuing nothing more dearly than our rightful home on the islands within the traditional boundaries of this archipelago.' The traditional rights are furthermore recognized in Article X. 'Traditional Rights'.

The Constitution also contains many provisions that specifically recognize and guarantee the right to property. Section 4 of Article II 'Bill of Rights' prohibits the deprivation of private property, providing in part: '1) No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law...'

The protection of private property rights is again specified in Subsection 4(10), Subsections 5(1), (4), (8) of Article II 'Bill of Rights, Subsection 15 (3) of Article VIII 'Finance'. Similarly, the protection of property or other assets of Government is also stipulated in Subsection 4 (c) of Article I 'Supremacy of the Constitution”.
Available Texts: 

Constitution of the Marshall Islands Constitution of the Marshall Islands, Complete document (pdf) [197 KB]

WIPO Lex No.:MH001