15 December 2017: Commonwealth Ombudsman to be National Preventive Mechanism Coordinator for OPCAT

Attorney-General Senator the Hon George Brandis QC and the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon Julie Bishop MP today announced that the Australian Government has formally ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

The objective of OPCAT is to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by:

  • international bodies —UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT), and
  • domestic bodies—National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs)

to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe welcomes the appointment of the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the Office) as the NPM Coordinator for OPCAT.

‘In addition to coordinating the NPM bodies across Australia, the NPM Coordinator will independently report to Ministerial bodies and the public, facilitate the sharing of expertise, knowledge and practice and will consult with relevant stakeholders on the means by which inspections and reporting will occur’ Mr Manthorpe said.

It is anticipated that the Commonwealth will establish the new role for the Office in the New Year.

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman will continue to undertake inspections within its legislated mandate under the Ombudsman Act 1976, including with regards to immigration detention facilities.

‘I look forward to my Office working collaboratively with stakeholders to bring greater transparency and oversight to places of detention,’ Mr Manthorpe said.

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