OPCAT ratification - Consultations
20 May 2019
The Law Council has continued to engage with the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC’s) consultative process following the Australian Government’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in December 2017.
OPCAT is designed to strengthen the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It requires the Australian Government to establish a system of regular visits, to be undertaken by independent international and national bodies, to all places of detention in Australia, including prisons, youth and immigration detention and mental health facilities.
In 2017, the Commonwealth Attorney-General asked the AHRC to conduct consultations regarding how OPCAT should be implemented in Australia. The AHRC provided an interim report in September 2017. Under the final phase of consultations, organisations have been asked to respond to interim report’s proposals and on the detail of how OPCAT should be implemented. As well as submitting on the interim report in 2018, the Law Council has participated in a number of stakeholder roundtables recently.
The Law Council has strongly supported the ratification and effective implementation of OPCAT. Its priorities in this area continue to include:
- compliance frameworks with clear accountability and transparency mechanisms;
- core elements of OPCAT implementation in Australia to be documented in legislation, or, at a minimum, in a formal agreement;
- an expansive interpretation of the definition of ‘places of determination’, given the opportunity to develop a system of systemic and cohesive oversight across both private and public institutions where people are under the care or authority of others – including eg older people and people with disability; and
- addressing current practices on seclusion and restraint, conditions in immigration and youth detention, and the treatment of First Nations peoples in detention.
The Law Council understands that the AHRC’s final report will be provided to the Attorney-General early in the second half of 2019.
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