Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT)
- Consultations on OPCAT (see also OPCAT Consultation Page and OPCAT Submissions)
- What is OPCAT and what does it require?
- What is the status of OPCAT in Australia?
- The Commission's work in relation to OPCAT
- Useful links
The Australian Government ratified OPCAT on 15 December, 2017. In February 2017, the Commonwealth Attorney-General asked the Commission to conduct consultations with civil society in order to advise the Australian Government on views about how OPCAT should be implemented in Australia.
The Australian Human Rights Commissioner is conducting this consultation in two phases.
The first phase was completed in 2017. The Commissioner published a consultation paper, received written submissions and held roundtables in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Darwin. The Commissioner summarised these views in an interim report to the Attorney-General in September 2017; the interim report was intended to inform the ratification process.
A second and final phase of consultation was launched on 19 June 2018. Submissions were received on the proposals contained in the interim report and on the detail of how OPCAT should be implemented in Australia. A final report is due to be published in mid-2019.
For more details see our OPCAT Consultation page.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international agreement aimed at preventing torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. OPCAT was adopted in 2002 and entered into force in 2006. OPCAT is a human rights treaty that assists in the implementation of and builds on the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and helps States meet their obligations under CAT. The key aim of OPCAT is to prevent the mistreatment of people in detention.
Under OPCAT, State Parties agree to establish an independent National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to conduct inspections of all places of detention and closed environments. In addition to the NPM, State Parties also agree to international inspections of places of detention by the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT). The SPT engages with states on a confidential basis and cannot publish reports and recommendations unless under agreement with the state party. Furthermore, people who provide information to the SPT may not be subject to sanctions or reprisals for having done so.
Australia has signed and ratified CAT. CAT sets out the core obligations to prevent torture and other forms of mistreatment. On 19 May 2009, the Australian Government signed OPCAT. On 9 February 2017 the Australian Government announced its intention to ratify OPCAT and on 15 December 2017 the instruments of ratification were lodged with the UN. The Australian Government now has three years to implement its obligations under the treaty.
In signing and ratifying OPCAT, the Australian Government has taken a significant step towards establishing enhanced oversight of Australian places of detention, and improvement in conditions.
OPCAT assists Australia in meeting its existing international human rights obligations.
Following ratification in December 2017, the Australian Government will now establish a national system of visits to all places of detention where people are deprived of their liberty. The Government has three years in which to implement its obligations under the treaty. The objective of the consultation on OPACT is to feed back the views of stakeholders, primarily civil society organisations, regarding how OPCAT should be implemented in Australia.
The Commission works to protect the human rights of immigration detainees, prisoners, and young people in the juvenile justice system. In particular, the Commission has reported on the conditions of immigration detainees in Australia since the introduction of mandatory immigration detention in 1992. The Commission conducts regular inspections of immigration detention facilities in order to monitor whether the conditions and the treatment of immigration detainees comply with Australia’s human rights obligations.
The Commission’s Director of Policy and Programs, Darren Dick speaks with Mark Thomson, Secretary-General of the Association for the Prevention of Tortur about OPCAT and Australia.
United Nations Links
- The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
- Committee against Torture
- Outline of a regular SPT visit
- Annual reports submitted by the SPT to the Committee Against Torture
- List of the current members of the SPT and links to their biographies
- Annual Reports received from NPMs by SPT
Australia and OPCAT links
- Report on options for implementing OPCAT in Australia
- Key considerations in implementing OPCAT in Australia from 2009 Commission hosted seminar
- 2014 Committee against Torture Concluding Observations about Australia
- Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Report: Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (23 March 2004)
- Tabling of OPCAT in the Commonwealth Parliament (28 February 2012)
- Commission’s Submission to Consideration of Australia’s ratification of OPCAT (29 March 2012)
- Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Report 125, Chapter 6: OPCAT, (21 June 2012)
- 2016 Childrens' Rights Report: the report focuses on OPCAT in the context of children and young people detained in youth justice centres or adult facilities
OPCAT and Prevention of Torture
- Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Bristol University’s OPCAT Project
- Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)
- List of all NPMs and their reports (APT OPCAT Database)
- UK NPM: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons
- New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s webpage about OPCAT