The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international human rights treaty that supplements the 1948 United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT).
Together, CAT and OPCAT aims to prevent States subjecting individuals under their jurisdictions to coercive, violent or inhumane treatment or punishment. OPCAT creates a framework for the United Nations and States themselves to monitor, inspect and report on the observance of CAT in places of detention.
While 83 States have ratified the protocol and a further 16 have signed it as of April 2017, the treaty requires States to willingly uphold its commitments. Australia is one of the countries that have signed but has not yet created domestic legislation to give force to OPCAT.
In February 2017, the Federal Government has finally announced that it intends to ratify OPCAT by December 2017 after consulting with the states and territories. This promise to ratify OPCAT comes at an especially critical time, following the 2016 Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory. Existing domestic mechanisms for regulating and reviewing State institutions have been clearly proven ineffective at enforcing compliance.
Justice Action firmly believes that the Australian Government must engage with those who have experienced or are experiencing detention to give effect to OPCAT.