Gillard Government moves to ratify OPCAT

Joint media release

  • The Hon Craig Emerson MP, Minister for Trade, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • The Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Attourney-General

28 February 2012

The Gillard Government today tabled a National Interest Analysis that proposes Australia ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

"Torture is wholly inconsistent with the Australian Government's fundamental responsibility to protect the rights and dignity of all individuals," Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said.

"Ratifying OPCAT will send a strong message both within Australia and internationally that Australia takes its human rights obligations seriously."

Trade Minister and Acting Foreign Minister Craig Emerson said Labor was committed to combating torture around the world. Ratifying OPCAT follows Government legislation passed in 2010 that explicitly criminalises acts of torture committed both within and outside Australia.

"Australian law strongly prohibits the use of torture and will now be supported and strengthened by an internationally recognised and independent mechanism for the regular monitoring of places of detention," Dr Emerson said.

The National Interest Analysis indicates that while further work is needed to ensure the arrangements for inspecting places of detention, including prisons, police stations, juvenile detention centres, immigration detention centres and secure mental health facilities, meet the obligations in the Optional Protocol, all necessary steps will be taken to ratify OPCAT at the earliest practicable time.

"The Australian Government is continuing to work closely with States and Territories, who are largely responsible for places of detention to prepare for implementation and ensure ratification occurs in a timely manner," Ms Roxon said.

The proposal to ratify the Optional Protocol will now be considered by Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

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