The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture announced they will visit Australia to shine a light on abuses in places of detention, including adult prisons, youth prisons, police lock-ups and immigration detention facilities.
This will be the first inspection since the Australian Government signed the UN anti-torture protocol 18 months ago, which aims to prevent the mistreatment of people deprived of liberty through independent, national and international inspections.
Ruth Barson, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre who helped expose the horrors of Don Dale, said international scrutiny is important to ensure governments are held to account for mistreatment.
“Abuse thrives behind closed doors. Australian governments have maintained an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to places of detention for too long. While independent scrutiny is essential to expose abuse, the onus will be on our governments to then take action and end mistreatment,” said Barson.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) was established to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in places of detention. The Australian Government ratified the torture prevention treaty in 2017. The UN subcommittee is comprised of independent, international anti-torture experts and is empowered to inspect and report on abuse within places of detention in Australia.
“Right now, people with disability are being held in solitary confinement, women are being routinely strip searched and children are in prison yards rather than school yards. It’s absolutely vital these human rights abuses are exposed, investigated and that our governments are held to account for the cruelty they are subjecting people to,” said Barson.
The Human Rights Law Centre has argued that all places of detention in Australia’s control, including Manus Island and Nauru, should be subject to independent inspections. Ruth Barson said that it should be up to the independent experts to decide which places of detention they visit when they come to Australia, not the Government.
“The whole purpose of ratifying this Protocol is to prevent abuse through transparency. It would be very cynical of the government to try to keep its deepest, darkest places of misery hidden from scrutiny simply because exposure would be politically inconvenient,” said Barson.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s previous submission on OPCAT implementation in Australia can be found here [PDF].
For media inquiries:
Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519