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UN torture prevention body to visit Australia for the first time

13 October 2022

GENEVA (13 October 2022) - The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) will visit Australia from 16 to 27 October to advise and assist the State party in meeting its international commitments to prevent torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

“Our main objective is to assess how the authorities have implemented their obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), including those initiatives about maintaining, designing and setting up one or more visiting bodies to form the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture in the country,” said Aisha Shujune Muhammad, Head of the Delegation.

“We will also assess the treatment of people deprived of their liberty, and examine the existing protection measures against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” she added.

This is the SPT’s first visit to Australia. The Subcommittee was originally scheduled to visit the country in April 2020, the mission was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia ratified OPCAT in December 2017 but opted to postpone its obligation to establish an independent torture prevention monitoring body, officially known as the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture (NPM), until January 2022. The government further requested a one-year extension, which was granted by the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) earlier this year.

“Australia should have a fully functional and independent NPM by 20 January 2023, and in strict compliance with the provisions of the Optional Protocol. While we understand and appreciate the complexities of the Australian system, we hope our visit will help Australia meet its deadline for the full and effective implementation of the Optional Protocol,” said the Head of the Delegation.

Under its mandate, the SPT can undertake visits to all States parties to the Optional Protocol, carry out unannounced visits to all detention facilities and conduct private interviews with people deprived of their liberty without witnesses. During each visit, the SPT delegation meets with government officials, the NPM, civil society representatives and UN agencies.

At the end of the visit, the SPT will present its confidential preliminary observations to the Government of Australia and the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsperson.

The SPT delegation will comprise Aisha Shujune MUHAMMAD, Head of Delegation (Maldives), Jakub Julian CZEPEK (Poland), Marija DEFINIS (Croatia) and Nika KVARATSKHELIA (Georgia).

ENDS

Background

To date, the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture has been ratified by 91 states. States are under the obligation to allow the SPT unannounced and unhindered visits to all places where persons are deprived of their liberty. States Parties should also establish a national preventive mechanism, which should conduct regular visits to places throughout the country where people are deprived of liberty.

The mandate of the SPT is to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons deprived of their liberty, through visits and recommendations to States parties to the Optional Protocol. The SPT communicates its recommendations and observations to States by means of a confidential report and, where necessary, to national preventive mechanisms. However, States parties are encouraged to request that the SPT publish the reports.

The SPT is composed of 25 independent and impartial members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States Parties.

For media inquiries or for more information, please contact:

Australia: Bardia JEBELI (Mr), +61 487 635 059/ 
[email protected]

Geneva: Vivian Kwok at +41 (0) 22 917 9362 / 
[email protected] or

UN Human Rights Office Media Section at +41 (0) 22 928 9855 / 
[email protected]

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