POLITICS

Australian Government Will Ratify Protocol To End Torture In Detention Centres

It will be signed by December 2017.

09/02/2017 4:00 PM AEDT | Updated 09/02/2017 4:59 PM AEDT
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Australia will ratify OPCAT.

The Australian government has announced plans to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) by December 2017.

The move by the Attorney-General George Brandis and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop will work towards ending situations of torture and strengthening the protections of people currently in detention within Australia.

"The ratification of OPCAT will be another significant human rights achievement for the Turnbull Government," a statement released on Thursday reads.

"It will improve the oversight of places of detention in Australia, and it reflects the Government's commitment to preventing torture and mistreatment."

As part of the deal, juvenile and immigration detention centres and prisons in Australia will be regularly monitored by independent Australian inspection bodies and the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

No mention was made of the offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

The government has also promised to work with individual states and territories in managing detention facilities.

Under the ratification, funding will be given to the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in order to coordinate the independent inspection bodies within Australia.

President of the Law Council of Australia, Fiona McLeod, said: "Ratification will build upon Australia's history as a nation determined to eradicate and prevent torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at home and abroad.

"It will enhance the protection of the fundamental rights of people in detention in Australia and improve conditions in detention facilities where required."

The decision also comes in light of calls for a federal inquiry into youth detention that were made last year following a Four Corners investigation into the stripping, gassing, shackling and solitary confinement of juvenile inmates in the Don Dale Detention Centre in the Northern Territory.

At the time, Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, admitting he knew of the use of spit hoods and restraint chairs in places such as Don Dale.

The shocking experiences of teenagers such as Dylan Voller -- the individual who was tear-gassed and pictured in a hood at Don Dale, were detailed in a Royal Commission into the matter.

It was announced last week that Voller has been granted early release from jail and will be moved into a rehabilitation program.

The ratification will also come following the release of images that revealed the alleged mistreatment of youths at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Queensland and sparked calls for it to also be added to the Royal Commission.

Director of Policy and Advocacy at UNICEF Australia, Nicole Breeze, has welcomed the decision by the government, saying the revelations from Don Dale and Cleveland highlight the need for higher levels of accountability and monitoring.

"Recent events at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and similar reports involving other youth detention centres across Australia indicate that children have been subjected to extended periods of isolation and mechanical restraints," she said.

"The Federal Government's commitment to ratify OPCAT is a significant and positive development. Preventative monitoring will ensure better protection for children who are held in places of detention."

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