NSW Blocks SPT from Entering Detention Facilities

The United Nations Subcommitee on the prevention of torture (SPT) arrived on the 16th of October to investigate state prisons that are party to the obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). When carried out, the inspections result in recommendations for action to improve the treatment of detainees and uphold Australia’s obligations under OPCAT.

On the 23rd of October the SPT delegates officially suspended their visit in Australia after they were barred from entering NSW detention facilities. The SPT were also prevented from visiting Queensland medical facilities due to legal restrictions and were experiencing difficulties in carrying out full visits as they weren’t receiving all the relevant information and documentation. 

Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk said that the Queensland government will cooperate with the SPT and that a proposed bill that allows the SPT to visit medical facilities will be operationalised by next year. 

NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet was unapologetic on the refusal of the SPT team in NSW, saying that his state had the highest standards and already has an independent process that oversees the jail system. Perrottet states that the reason for blocking the visitations were due to funding disagreements with the Federal Government. 

The Australian Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay told the media that the claims made by the NSW government around funding and the inspections were “redundant” and “simply not true”. 

While Leading Greens Candidate, David Shoebridge stated that although “NSW has behaved appallingly” and are “culpable morally,” it is the Commonwealth’s legal obligation to uphold OPCAT’s obligations. Shoebridge questioned the Senate if the Federal Government had ever asked and “received a positive assertion from NSW that they would admit UN inspectors” into their detention facilities. There were conflicting and indirect answers before the question was officially taken on notice.

Australia’s obstruction of the SPT was a clear breach of Australia’s obligation under OPCAT, placing the country’s human rights reputation in jeopardy. Human right’s groups called the development an “international embarrassment,” highlighting that the UN may consider placing Australia on its article 17 non-compliance list which would greatly affect Australia’s international standing.

Currently, there is concern over the continued allegations of systematic abuse in Australian detention facilities alongside the amount of First Nation deaths in custody. The Corrective Services NSW commissioner, Kevin Corcoran said the inspector of custodial services has already delivered a report listing five facilities housing hundreds of inmates as inadequate. Making it imperative that there is compliance with international bodies to create change within Australian detention facilities. 

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