The past fortnight has shone light on abuses of young people in places of juvenile detention.
People who are deprived of their liberty are particularly vulnerable to violations of their human rights.
The UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is an international agreement which aims to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in detention.
Australia’s ratification of OPCAT will require it to establish a national system of inspections of all places of detention. The monitoring processes in the OPCAT would increase transparency and accountability in places of detention. Increased transparency will assist in identifying breaches of human rights and prevent breaches from occurring in the first place.
The OPCAT was adopted in 2002 and entered into force in 2006. Australia became a signatory to the OPCAT in 2009. A parliamentary committee recommended the OPCAT be ratified in 2012. In signing the OPCAT, the Australian Government has taken a significant step towards establishing greater oversight and inspection of its places of detention. Australia should now ratify the OPCAT as a matter of urgency.
The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, has been conducting visits to juvenile detention centres across Australia, considering the application of OPCAT within juvenile justice. The Children’s Rights Report on OPCAT and juvenile justice is expected to be released in November 2016.
Further information on the OPCAT is available at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/projects/optional-protocol-convention-against-torture-opcat