The Protocol aims to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment within all closed environments in Australia. Closed environments include prisons, youth justice facilities, secure mental health and disability facilities, and places of temporary detention, such as police cells and prisoner transport vehicles.
Under the Protocol, Australia has committed to set up a system of independent scrutiny of all closed environments, and agreed to allow the United Nations to inspect places of detention.
Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said: “We welcome the ratification of OPCAT and will support its implementation in Victoria.
Regular independent inspections will scrutinise places where people are deprived of their liberty and can prevent human rights abuses from occurring.”
Commissioner Hilton said community members, such as Aboriginal people, children and young people, and those with disabilities or mental illness are often most at risk in closed environments.
The Commission has identified a number of practices that can pose problems in closed environments, including the use of force, restraint and seclusion.
Commissioner Hilton said the Commission has been participating in consultations led by the Australian Human Rights Commission about the effective implementation of OPCAT and what changes will be required in Victoria.
“We know that implementing OPCAT is a major undertaking, and will require legislative and operational changes as well as resourcing,” Commissioner Hilton said.
“Victoria already has a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities and number of monitoring bodies. However, OPCAT will require a more rigorous regime for inspecting places of detention.”
The Commission has responsibilities under the Charter to monitor its operation in Victoria, to review the programs and practices of public authorities to determine their compatibility with human rights, and to provide education about human rights and about the Charter.
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