Media Release: Australia Takes Crucial Step to Prevent Torture
The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) today welcomed the Australian Government’s decision to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).
The Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis announced the intention to ratify OPCAT by the end of the year. OPCAT is a key international Convention designed to establish systems for independent oversight of places of detention.
“Today’s announcement is very welcome. It is something community legal centres have been advocating for over many years and is a meaningful step towards greater protection of people in places of detention across Australia” said NACLC Chief Executive Officer Nassim Arrage.
“Community legal centres across Australia provide vital legal help to people in detention. We have seen firsthand the treatment of some people in detention and welcome greater monitoring of places including prisons, police cells, immigration detention centres and mental health facilities” he said.
“We look forward to further detail about what implementation of the treaty will look like in practice, including the operation of the national preventative mechanism and the role the Commonwealth Ombudsman will play in coordinating inspections and oversight” he added.
“Ratification also gives the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments an opportunity to work collaboratively to address issues of concern in relation to detention facilities, including in particular the over-representation and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people” said Mr Arrage.
“Importantly however, the need for OPCAT only exists because people are held in places of detention. As a result, we encourage the Commonwealth Government to continue to consider the underlying causes of imprisonment and possible alternatives as part of these important discussions” he added.
“This is an important commitment, and a timely one given our candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, and we congratulate the Australian Government” Mr Arrage concluded.
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