The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (UNSPT) intended to visit Australia since October, 2022 but just cancelled the visit for the second time. Remarkably, this cancellation means Australia joins Rwanda as the only countries to have visits cancelled by the UN’s torture prevention body.
The purpose of the visit was to assess Australia’s compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). This requires state parties to establish a system of regular visits to all places of detention.
However, despite having multiple deadlines, including the latest one in January, Australia failed to fully implement the OPCAT.
United Nations Torture Prevention body cancels visit to Australian jails
The UNSPT delayed its visit over “obstacles” and difficulties in carrying out a full visit at other locations and not getting all the relevant information and documentation requested.
In October, the UN accused Australia of a “clear breach” of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) obligations.
Australia Faces Criticism
As a consequence, this decision has drawn strong criticism. Amala Ramarathinam, Acting Managing Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, has stated:
“It is a stain on Australia’s human rights record that the UN has been forced to terminate its visit…Australia must implement the OPCAT treaty immediately if it wants to be taken seriously on the international stage.”
Australia must prioritise implementing the OPCAT to ensure that all places of detention are subject to regular, independent monitoring to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment. This is not only a legal obligation under international law but also essential for protecting the human rights and dignity of all individuals in Australia.