OPCAT ratification a welcome step

09.02.17

The Change the Record (CTR) Coalition has today welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement that they will ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other mistreatment (OPCAT) by December 2017. This will help to ensure independent monitoring of all places of detention, including all Australian prisons and youth detention facilities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Strait Islander people are currently 13 times more likely to be in prison that non-Indigenous people, representing 27 percent of the prison population. And the figures are even worse for young people, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people 24 times more likely to be in prison than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

CTR Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “We have long called for Australia to ratify OPCAT without delay, and so we commend the Turnbull Government on taking this positive step forward”.

“Under OPCAT, Australia will be required to put in place independent inspection and monitoring systems. This will play an important role in preventing mistreatment in prisons and detention facilities, as well as safeguarding against deaths in custody” said Mr Duffy.

Australian formally signed up to OPCAT in 2009, however had resisted calls to make the treaty formally binding. By ratifying OPCAT the Australian Government will now be required to consult nationally and work with the states and territories to set up an OPCAT compliant National Preventative Mechanism.

Co-Chair Antoinette Braybrook said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be vastly overrepresented in prison and youth detention facilities. And the tragic death of Ms Dhu in police custody, along with the horrific revelations of mistreatment of children in Don Dale and other youth detention facilities around the country has highlighted the urgent need for stronger accountability mechanisms”.

“We strongly welcome this announcement by the Federal Government and hope it plays a role in improving detention conditions and safeguarding the the human rights of those who are detained”

"In addition, just about every person in prison will be released back into the community at some stage, so it is all of our interests to ensure people are treated humanely in detention.  Providing access to appropriate rehabilitation services in prison will assist people to reintegrate into the community post-release - in turn reducing reoffending rates and improving community safety" said Ms Braybrook.

Media Contact
Shannon Longhurst for Shane Duffy and Antoinette Braybrook
Ph: 0409 711 061 / E: shannon@changetherecord.org.au