Skip to main content

Implementing OPCAT in Australia released

Rights Rights and Freedoms
silhouette of two people walking through a barred gate

The Commission has today released recommendations for how Australia should implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

Implementing OPCAT in Australia is the final step in the Commission’s consultation process with civil society, inspectorate and monitoring bodies, and a number of state and territory governments and independent agencies.

OPCAT exists to improve independent inspections for places where people are detained. The aim is to protect the basic rights of people in all forms of detention, including prisons, juvenile detention, immigration detention, and some forms of secure aged and care facilities. This paper provides practical recommendations to help Australia make good on this aim.

“When an individual is detained, their human rights must continue to be respected and protected,” said Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow.

“Australia takes human rights seriously. But we have seen too many preventable deaths in detention, and too many people harmed unnecessarily. In particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience extraordinary levels of incarceration and harm in detention in this country.

“In implementing OPCAT in Australia, we have the chance to put in place an effective ‘early warning system’ that can identify practices that could cause mistreatment of people in detention, and prevent human rights abuses arising or worsening.

“We need to implement OPCAT as quickly as we can and, in line with the treaty, we must ensure that no place of detention is excluded.”

The Australian Government ratified OPCAT in December 2017. In so doing, Australia has committed to establish and run a co-ordinated system of independent inspections for all Australian places of detention, with oversight from the United Nations, in order to prevent ill treatment, particularly of vulnerable detainees.

Among the recommendations in Implementing OPCAT in Australia, is a call for the Australian Government to adopt an OPCAT implementation strategy that sets out clear timeframes, a formal framework for implementation, and a formal process for compliance.

Implementing OPCAT in Australia is available for download on the Commission’s website.

You can find more information about OPCAT on our website at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/projects/opcat-optional-protocol-convention-against-torture

For more information and interviews, please contact Liz Stephens on 0430 366 529 or
liz.stephens@humanrights.gov.au