On 24 January 2013, Nauru acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), committing the Nauruan Government to establish an independent body to visit and review places in Nauru where people are deprived of their liberty. OPCAT aims to identify and prevent torture and other ill treatment and punishment in places of detention by requiring state parties to establish independent bodies (known as National Preventative Mechanisms, or NPMs) with the mandate and powers to inspect all places of detention. The treaty also provides the UN Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) with unrestricted access to places of detention in those states.
Nauru’s accession to OPCAT brings into sharp focus Australia’s failure to ratify the treaty, particularly given the establishment of Australian immigration detention facilities on Nauru. Australia signed OPCAT in 2009, but since that time progress on ratification and implementation has been extremely slow. This creates a curious situation where Nauru will now be bound to ensure the independent monitoring and review of Australia’s immigration detention facilities, despite Australia failing to sign up to this obligation itself.