: Government urged to prevent ill-treatment in detention

Government urged to prevent ill-treatment in detention

Ben Schokman and Rachel Ball
Human Rights

A bipartisan parliamentary committee has unanimously recommended that the federal government take immediate action to improve monitoring and accountability, and prevent ill-treatment, in places of detention.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (‘JSCOT’) has recommended that Australia ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as a matter of priority.  Australia signed the Optional Protocol in May 2009. Since that time, progress on ratification and implementation has been slow, with wrangling between the states and the Commonwealth about who is to foot the modest bill for detention monitoring and oversight.

The Optional Protocol aims to prevent ill-treatment and promote humane conditions by establishing systems for independent monitoring and inspection of all places of detention.

At the national level, the Optional Protocol requires that countries establish what is known as a ‘national preventative mechanism’, or NPM. An NPM is an independent body with a mandate to conduct both announced and unannounced visits to places of detention, to make recommendations to prevent ill-treatment and improve conditions, and to report publicly on its findings and views. JSCOT recommended that ‘the Australian Government work with the states and territories to implement an NPM that is compliant with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as a priority.

At the international level, the Optional Protocol establishes an independent committee of experts, the UN Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture, with a mandate to carry out country missions to monitor deprivations of liberty.

BEN SCHOKMAN and RACHEL BALL are from the Human Rights Law Centre.

(2012) 37(3) AltLJ 201
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