The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) Sunday announced that the group has suspended its review of prison in Australia because delegates were unable to adequately visit facilities. The visit was conducted under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture & other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), ratified by Australia in 2017.
According to SPT, delegates tried to visit various facilities around Australia but were “prevented” or experienced “difficulties.” Delegates were also unable to access the requested information necessary under their mandate. The statement claims that the delegates were unable to resolve the issues with Australian federal and state authorities to continue the assessment and “had no other option but to suspend” the visit. The head of the four-delegate group Aisha Shujune Muhammad said, “this is a clear breach by Australia of its obligations under OPCAT. State parties have an obligation to both receive the SPT in their territory and allow it to exercise its mandate in full.” Although Tasmanian and Northern Territory facilities were able to cooperate, the statement makes special note of difficulties with Queensland and New South Wales authorities.
The New South Wales state government is firm on their decisions to not let the delegates into the facilities without prior consent, despite the result. However, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus stated, “it is disappointing that the New South Wales Government refused to allow the SPT to visit any state-run places of detention across that state.” Dreyfus also commented that the early departure by the delegates “could have been avoided,” and that he “regrets” the decision to suspend the visit. The Australian Human Rights Commission has urged federal and state governments to implement OPCAT and to “outline immediate and tangible steps for ensuring Australia complies with its OPCAT obligations.”