FASSTT WELCOMES THE RATIFICATION OF OPCAT – A TREATY TO STRENGTHEN THE PROTECTION FROM ABUSE OF PEOPLE DEPRIVED OF THEIR LIBERTY.
The Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT) welcomes the announcement of the Attorney General Senator the Hon George Brandis on 15 December 2017, that Australia has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
OPCAT requires Australia to establish a system of independent inspections of places of detention, including periodic monitoring by a UN body, the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.
The treaty applies to all places where people are detained, including immigration detention, prisons and mental health facilities.
FASSTT is a network of Australia’s eight specialist rehabilitation agencies that work with survivors of torture and trauma of refugee backgrounds. FASSTT and many other civil society groups have advocated ratification of OPCAT to successive Australian governments for a number of years.
In 2008, we wrote to the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Attorney General stating that in our view “there is no doubt that independent scrutiny of places of detention is a critical component of measures essential to stop and prevent torture and deliberate or inadvertent cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment.”
Implementation will require the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to undertake signification action to create the robust, comprehensive inspection regime OPCAT demands. As observed by Australia’s Human Right Commissioner Ed Santow, “to ensure Australia meets its obligations under OPCAT, inspecting and monitoring bodies must be independent and given adequate powers and resources, including unfettered access to all places of detention.” https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/australia-ratifies-major-anti-torture-treaty-opcat
Having assisted many people in immigration detention, often for prolonged periods, for decades, FASSTT agencies have considerable knowledge about circumstances that affect the risks of abuse and ill-treatment. FASSTT indicates its willingness to draw on its experience and contribute to ensuring that OPCAT is implemented effectively.