The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) provides for independent inspections of all places of detention in the jurisdictions that ratify and implement it. On 9 February 2017, the Australian Government announced it intends to ratify OPCAT by December 2017 working closely with states and territories.
While the Australian Government has outlined some of the key features of how it intends OPCAT to operate in Australia, there remain many details still to be determined. The Government has explicitly provided for a period of consultation with key stakeholders.
Accordingly, the Commonwealth Attorney-General has asked the Human Rights Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct consultations with civil society to provide advice back to the Australian Government on views of how OPCAT should be implemented within Australia.
This Consultation Paper (the Paper) aims to help those with an interest in conditions of places of detention to participate in the process that will determine how OPCAT is implemented in Australia. Primarily, the Commission encourages input from those in the civil society sector with particular experience and expertise regarding conditions of detention, such as relevant medical professionals, lawyers, social workers, academics, human rights bodies, religious and faith based groups and organisations representing people with lived experience of detention.
While the focus of the Commission’s consultation is to facilitate the participation of civil society in OPCAT implementation, the Commission also welcomes the views of representatives from federal, state and territory governments who will be, or who are currently involved with, the OPCAT implementation process in their jurisdiction (including corrective services, oversight bodies, justice policy specialists etc).
While OPCAT involves both international and domestic inspection processes, the primary focus of this Consultation Paper is on the domestic process.
The Commission is interested in receiving community views. The Commission will analyse the feedback it receives and make findings and recommendations that takes into account the material received.
The Commission anticipates that there will be two phases in this work. The first will constitute the Commission’s analysis of the key issues that the Australian Government will need to resolve before it ratifies OPCAT by December 2017. To this end, the Commission intends to communicate informally with the Australian Government any key recommendations in or around September 2017.
The second phase of the Commission’s work on OPCAT will involve a more detailed analysis of the much larger list of issues that all Australian governments will need to resolve in the implementation period in the years following ratification. The Commission plans to prepare a more detailed report, which will cover this broader range of issues, to be published in 2018. The Commission is open to undertaking a second round of community and stakeholder consultation in this second phase of its work.