Page 1198 - Week 04 - Thursday, 21 March 2013

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OPCAT requires two levels of monitoring oversight. Firstly, Australia will be required to facilitate and support any visits from the United Nations subcommittee for the prevention of torture, which administers the OPCAT internationally. This obligation becomes effective immediately once the protocol is ratified. In the longer term, a national preventative mechanism will need to be established within three years after ratification. A national preventative mechanism does not need to be a single mechanism for the whole of Australia. In the three years until it needs to be established, the government will be working towards a coordinated approach to the national preventative mechanism in the territory. But this is not the focus of this bill.

The purpose of this bill is to provide a framework in the ACT to support any future visits of the United Nations subcommittee following Australia’s ratification of the OPCAT, as required in the first instance. The UN subcommittee has a broad mandate under the protocol, allowing it to visit “any place under its jurisdiction and control where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty”.

The bill provides for the UN subcommittee to access places of detention, access information and interview detainees and other people. “Place of detention” is defined as any place under the ACT’s jurisdiction and control in which people are or may be involuntarily deprived of their liberty. The bill lists the common places of detention, such as a correctional or detention centre, hospital, police station or court cell complex or a vehicle used to transport detainees. However, this is not an exhaustive list. In the ACT, these places would include facilities like the Alexander Maconochie Centre, the Court Transport Unit, court cells, the Symonston Correctional Centre, the city watch house, police station cells, any police transport, the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre and any health facility where people are detained involuntarily, such as a psychiatric unit.

Under the protocol, the ACT will be obliged to facilitate unrestricted access of the UN subcommittee to places of detention within their jurisdiction. The ACT will also be obliged to provide relevant information to the UN subcommittee, including information about conditions of detention, and provide the opportunity to conduct private interviews with detainees and other relevant people like medical personnel. Generally, the UN subcommittee is bound to respect the laws and regulations of the states or territories it visits.

The UN subcommittee has a systemic focus and adopts a cooperative approach to ensure that the requirements of OPCAT are met, while maintaining security, safety, good order and personal privacy in places of detention. It must refrain from any action or activity which is incompatible with the impartial and international nature of its duties and must be guided by the principles of confidentiality, impartiality, non-selectivity, universality and objectivity.

It is important to note that we have an ACT framework in place to not only assist the UN subcommittee to effectively perform its role, but also ensure the rights of detainees, their families and people who work with them in places of detention. This bill establishes such a framework within the international law requirements. The bill is based on a national model bill that was developed collaboratively between the

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