A new report released today by the Australian Human Rights Commission outlines activities required to expedite Australia’s sluggish approach to implementing the United Nation’s Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
Informed by the Commission’s recent National OPCAT Symposium, the Road Map to OPCAT Compliance provides a clear pathway for governments across Australia to meet a looming deadline for OPCAT compliance.
OPCAT is designed to protect the rights of people detained in places including – but not limited to – prisons, juvenile detention centres, immigration detention centres, hospitals, mental health facilities, aged care facilities and facilities for people with disability.
Since ratification in 2017, the deadline for Australia’s OPCAT implementation process has been extended until 20 January 2023. To meet this deadline, a significant amount of work needs to be finalised to enable relevant authorities to comply with their obligations.
Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay said, “Despite ratifying OPCAT nearly half a decade ago, the subsequent delays to implementation in Australia – at the federal, state and territory levels – have been disappointing.
“The progress has been too slow and immediate action is needed to fast-track implementation to ensure Australia complies with the 20 January 2023 deadline.
“Meeting our OPCAT obligations is important not only to ensure basic human rights are protected, but also for the broader signal it sends about Australia's commitment to a rules-based international system. Once Australia has ratified an international treaty, we need to keep our word.”
“The Commission has long advocated for full compliance with OPCAT. Merely adjusting the current processes for detention inspections is not enough. Instead, the changes required by OPCAT should be pursued in a way that promotes stronger and more consistent human rights protections for people who are detained across all jurisdictions.”
The Road Map to OPCAT Compliance report contains key information and principles as well as five recommendations to help guide the implementation process over the next few months. A copy of the report has been sent to the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (UN SPT) as well as individuals, agencies, departments and organisations in Australia which are involved with the OPCAT implementation process.
The release of the report coincides with the visit to Australia by a UN SPT delegation from 16 – 27 October 2022. The UN SPT delegation will provide advice and assistance to help all relevant Australian jurisdictions comply with the OPCAT obligations. During the visit, the UN SPT may carry out unannounced visits to detention facilities and conduct private interviews with people deprived of their liberty.
The Commission is available to provide support and advice to the UN SPT delegation at any time during their visit.
The Road Map to OPCAT Compliance is available on the Commission’s website: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/projects/opcat-optional-protocol-convention-against-torture
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