GENEVA (20 February 2023) – The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) concluded its latest session with a decision to terminate its suspended visit to Australia and confirmations to visit South Africa, Kazakhstan and Madagascar in the first half of this year, as well as Croatia, Georgia, Guatemala, State of Palestine, and the Philippines during the second half of 2023.
The Subcommittee decided to cease its visit to Australia, which was suspended on 23 October last year, due to obstacles in carrying out its mandate under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). The Subcommittee requested a number of assurances from the State Party in order to resume its visit. However, some of the requested guarantees were not provided, and the Subcommittee could not ascertain that it would be able to resume its visit in a reasonable timeframe.
“Despite the good cooperation the Subcommittee has with the Australian Federal Authorities following our initial mission, there is no alternative but to terminate the visit as the issue of unrestricted access to all places of deprivation of liberty in two states has not yet been resolved,” said Suzanne Jabbour, the newly re-elected Chairperson of the SPT.
“Nevertheless, a report based on what the SPT observed during its October visit before the suspension will be shared with the State party as soon as possible. It will enable ongoing communication with the Australian Government,” she added.
During the session, the SPT also finalised plans to visit South Africa, Kazakhstan and Madagascar, Croatia, Georgia, Guatemala, the State of Palestine, and the Philippines in 2023.
In each country visit, besides examining places of deprivation of liberty, the SPT will meet with public authorities responsible for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment and assists the country’s independent torture prevention watchdog, formally named the National Prevention Mechanism (NPM), where applicable.
The SPT has also decided to launch a public consultation on its first general comment, a legal guide, on the definition of places of deprivation of liberty. The SPT will publish its first draft in three working languages to seek the views of all stakeholders in preparation for the public discussion at its June meeting.
“This is an important development, and we call on all interested parties to provide input to enrich the draft,” said Jabbour.
In addition, the Subcommittee held an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the OPCAT and the 15th anniversary of the SPT with States Parties, NPMs, other UN agencies and other concerned parties.
The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture monitors States parties’ adherence to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which to date has been ratified by 91 countries. The Subcommittee is made up of 25 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. The Subcommittee has a mandate to visit States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, during the course of which it may visit any place where persons may be deprived of their liberty and assist those States in preventing torture and ill-treatment. The Subcommittee communicates its observations and recommendations to States through confidential reports, which it encourages countries to make public.