Australia has a unique opportunity to prevent abuse and safeguard the dignity of our most vulnerable, by ratifying a treaty aimed at preventing torture and ill-treatment of people. The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international agreement that aims to prevent the mistreatment of people in detention by opening up places of detention to independent oversight and regular monitoring.
In February 2017, the Australian Government announced its intention to ratify OPCAT by December 2017. The Commonwealth Attorney-General asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct consultations with civil society to provide advice back to the Australian Government on views about OPCAT implementation.
As part of this consultation process, Vinnies has participated in roundtables convened by the Human Rights Commission. We have also contributed to this joint submission, which represents a collaborative effort from a range of civil society organisations and individuals.
This submission examines the systemic problems that are apparent across different places of detention, key shortcomings in existing monitoring arrangements, and how the OPCAT can be implemented in Australia to prevent these problems. Implementation of the OPCAT presents an opportunity to make a real difference to the multitude of people in closed institutions across Australia, but this will only happen if monitoring bodies have the necessary mandate, powers, resourcing and independence. Critically, this submission affirms the importance of ongoing engagement with civil society throughout the implementation of the OPCAT.