International Torture Inspection Ignores Detainees

Media release: Friday October 14, 2022

The UN Convention Against Torture Inspection team arriving in Australia for the first time has not notified detainees of their arrival, even though protecting them from torture is their job. To ignore their voices it disempowers prisoners and erodes the effectiveness of the Treaty before their job even begins. Instead it is business as usual with bureaucrats only talking to each other.

OPCAT was signed by Australia following the Royal Commission into the NT Don Dale Youth Centre abuse was exposed by the media. From the 16th to 27th October the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) will be in Australia, heralding a “proactive approach to preventing torture and ill treatment” through their ability to examine detainee treatment in places of detention. Our analysis of OPCAT can be found here.

A submission has also been made in preparation for the visit here.

JA expressed concern to the SPT in a virtual meeting with ‘civil society’ on October 4 that prison notice boards had no information about their visit or OPCAT’s function. In response, the SPT told us that ‘the delegation is aware and has taken your suggestion into consideration.’ However, prisoners have informed us that no notice has been posted.

The SPT is failing before they even arrive with the team, making no attempt to inform detainees of OPCAT’s existence. Detainees’ have a right to be informed about something that affects them, their humanity should be acknowledged, their ideas to prevent their torture should be heard, and the custodians should see the respect that is offered to the citizens they hold, making the inspection continuous by those who are affected.

Now is an easy chance to empower detainees by showing them respect, and to ensure that the computers in cells in the ACT and NSW have access to the NPM’s as a matter of right, extended to all other jurisdictions. If they refuse to use their opportunity to facilitate continual monitoring, they will be seen to disgrace the principles and the organisation they lead. The failed inspection systems exposed by Don Dale will continue.

OPCAT index page is here.