United Arab Emirates: Tokyo Convention Amendment

Last Updated: 4 April 2019
Article by STA Law Firm
Most Read Contributor in United Arab Emirates, August 2019


The Tokyo Convention initially completed on September 14 of 1963, and it entered into force on December 4, 1969, has the full name 'The Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft'.

Being an international treaty, nations must ratify it for it to have any power over them or within their borders, and as of 2015, this convention has the approval of 186 countries. The basic concepts and goal behind the Convention were to enforce punishments on individuals who caused disruptions aboard aircraft. It came at around the time when commercial flights were growing considerably in popularity. In many ways, a law of this kind was bound to rise at around this time for just that reason.

This convention, for the first time in aviation, recognized that there should be immunity for certain individuals (specifically the flight commander at first) to handle situations that could turn out to be dangerous. This handling involved restraining anyone who is causing is believed to be a risk a potential risk. Over the years, this has been expanded upon to make it clearer.

The Tokyo Convention Amendment was passed by the Singapore Parliament on 9 July 2018 and was intended to initiate in multiple stages. The first of these was on September 15 of the same year, and this introduced Section 2 to 5, 8 and 9.

The Changes Introduced

Nine updates are introduced, and from these, there are three primary areas which the convention has looked to update. These are as follows:

  1. To allow Singapore to exercise the state of landing jurisdiction and operator jurisdiction as per the protocol;
  2. To redefine specifically when an aircraft is in flight;
  3. To protect certain individuals from liability in the case that a situation does arise during the journey. This protection applies to the likes of the cabin crew, commander and air marshals to name a few.

While these are the primary aims of the amendment, there are others which will be shown later in this article.

Article 2 of the amendment starts by repealing and altering the long title. It has now changed to the following:

"An Act to give effect to the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed at Tokyo on 14 September 1963, and the Protocol to Amend the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed at Montreal on 4 April 2014, and for purposes connected with the Convention or Protocol."

Section 2 of the convention contains definitions, and Article Number 3 makes certain additions and amendments to these. There are four changes here to be exact, and these are as follows:

  1. The addition of a definition for the 'Montreal Protocol'; "meaning the Protocol to Amend the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed in Montreal on 4 April 2014"
  2. The addition of the definition for 'Protocol Country', which "means a country which has been declared by the Minister, by notification in the Gazette, to have ratified or acceded to the Montreal Protocol, and has not been so declared to have denounced the Montreal Protocol"
  3. Replacement of paragraph (b) subsection one which defines 'Singapore-controlled Aircraft'. The new substitution is "which is leased without crew to a lessee whose principal place of business, or (if the lessee has no such place of business) whose permanent residence, is in Singapore"
  4. Replacing Subsection 2 with a new definition for when an aircraft is in flight (the time during which the Tokyo Convention is applicable). An aircraft is considered to be in flight from the time when all external doors are closed up until the time when the doors reopen for disembarkation. Further, in the case of an emergency landing, the aircraft shall be in flight until the point when the country's competent authority takes over control of it. If the forced landing occurs in Singapore, it shall be until a police officer arrives at the aircraft landing site.

There is one final caveat added, which states that an aircraft will still be in flight if it is found on the sea, or on land, though not within the territorial limits of any country.

Article 4 of the amendment adds in a clause which states that any act or omission (committed on a non-Singapore controlled aircraft) that would ordinarily constitute an offense shall be treated as such when the aircraft touches down in Singapore. If the law of the country specifically or implicitly allows for the action or omission though, it shall not be considered an offense.

Article 5 states that the jurisdiction under which offenses falls is dependent on the licensing and registration territory of the craft. In the amendment, this is referred to as the Convention Country (the same as the Protocol Country). If the aircraft lands in a different jurisdiction, their laws may be applied.

Following this, Article 6 provides another few substitutions. It covers Section 5 of the Principal Act, and paragraph b (2) is altered to now allow for the commander to decide what is considered a severe offense for the duration of the flight. On top of this, subsection 3 also provides that the flight commander may authorize others to among the crew or even passengers to assist in restraining of the offending individuals. Beyond this, the convention has expanded to allow for these individuals (crew, marshals, and passengers) to restrain any potential troublesome individuals without the permission of the flight commander. There must be reasonable grounds to believe that there is an immediate threat to the aircraft or any of the individuals aboard.

Provided herein is a list of activities that would be deemed unlawful and interfering, and some of these conditions are attempts to take control of the aircraft, causes it damage or put the safety of the craft or its passengers at risk.

Article 7 introduces a new Section 6 (A) and 6 (B) to the Principle act, and 6 (A) expressly states which parties the convention will protect. The parties are as follows:

  1. Aircraft Commander
  2. Crew Members
  3. Flight Passengers
  4. Air Marshals
  5. Aircraft Owner or Operator
  6. A person on whose behalf the flight was performed.

6 (B) does provide exceptions, though these are quite obvious. This Article states that there will be no protection from liability in the case that action is taken against an individual solely based on their gender, race, religion or political stance. Mentioning this is somewhat of a formality though, as it would be apparent to most reasonable individuals, though the law must state even these most trivial of facts.

Amendments to Related Acts

The Air Navigation Act:

Within this act, the previously mentioned definitions for when an aircraft is in flight from the Tokyo convention is also added into this act.

On top of this, there is also an addition, which confirms that these acts also apply to any individuals on flights not operated by Singapore or flying within Singaporean airspace that subsequently lands in Singapore.

The Police Force Act:

This act, much like the case of the Air Navigation Act, also adds in the same new definitions for what is considered to be 'in flight' for an aircraft.

The reasons for these minor alterations are to bring all regulations that concern or relate to the Tokyo Convention in line with it. The system will only work if these regulations work in tandem with each other.


Aviation is an ever-growing sector and is one which requires strict regulations. While air travel is generally very safe, it is continually improving and adapting, and with the potential risks that could arise from in-flight incidents, it is too dangerous to leave anything to chance. These amendments, through clarification of the initial 1963 regulation further this goal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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