Australia should prioritise and expedite ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment according to a Human Rights Law Centre submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. The Optional Protocol aims to prevent ill treatment and promote humane conditions of detention through the establishment of independent bodies to monitor and oversee places of detention. In particular, the Optional Protocol provides for a system of regular visits to places of detention by designated inspectorates, or ‘national preventative mechanisms’, and by the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.
The HRLC submission sets out six key reasons as to why Australia should ratify and implement OPCAT:
- Independent monitoring and inspection of places of detention would assist in fulfilling existing legal obligations under the Convention against Torture and the ICCPR to prevent torture and ill-treatment and to ensure humane conditions of detention.
- It would contribute to protecting the human rights of persons deprived of liberty, including prisoners, involuntary psychiatric patients, asylum-seekers and others in immigration detention, people with disability and juvenile detainees.
- OPCAT’s holistic and preventative approach to addressing torture and ill-treatment in places of detention would complement and strengthen existing individualised complaints-based mechanisms.
- By promoting a constructive dialogue between the NPM, international human rights experts and detaining authorities, OPCAT would foster best practice in detention monitoring and the prevention of ill-treatment in Australia.
- Ratification would demonstrate Australia’s commitment to international and regional human rights leadership.
- The costs of ratification and implementation would be low. Conversely, the social, economic, legal and health costs of failing to prevent torture and ill-treatment are very high.
Further information about the Joint Standing Committee inquiry is available here.