Australia has decided to ratify the international torture treaty. It is planning to bring all detention sites across the country under strict independent scrutiny. The treaty will ensure detainees don’t suffer more abuses.
The international torture treaty, once ratified, will also look into the juvenile justice center, including Don Dale and its onshore detention units. Attorney-General (AG) George Brandis said that if the scrutiny measures were adequate, the Don Dale detention center abuse incident would have never happened. The AG has already announced the ratification of the anti-torture treaty on Thursday.
With the ratification of the international torture treaty by the end of 2017, prisons, juvenile justice, immigration detention centers as well as police watch-houses throughout the country will undergo monitoring by independent inspectors. “Recent events have reminded us of the human, financial and other costs of mistreatment in detention,” Brandis addressed a human rights forum in Canberra.
“The government is of the view that ratification and effective implementation of Opcat will encourage continuous improvement to inspection and conditions of detention. It will also assist in identifying and resolving issues before they escalate. Australia will also welcome visits by the UN subcommittee on prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Ratifying International Torture Treaty is Important
It has been eight years since the nation signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (Opcat). However, Australia has decided to work on the scrutiny measures concerning the international torture treaty. Moreover, the Manus and Nauru islands will remain out of the remittance of the independent body because they do not belong to Australian territory. It is important to note here that both the detention islands have been involved in systemic human rights abuses.
While committing to ratify the international torture treaty, Brandis mentioned the Northern Territory abuse story. In the scandal, boys were tear-gassed in the youth prison. They were spit-hooded and shackled. The whole incident was aired on national television in 2016.
Australian Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow had a conversation with Guardian Australia regarding the international torture treaty ratification. He said that the ratified Opcat system will make review report regarding the detention conditions and try to improve and organize the whole system. “Take a hypothetical example like Don Dale – if Opcat was in place then an inspector would have gone into Don Dale and asked some serious questions about why spit hoods were used on juvenile detainees,” he said.
“The Northern Territory government’s rationale was that it wanted to stop the spread of disease. An Opcat mechanism would say that’s a legitimate aim but there are other more effective means of doing that which are more protective of young detainees’ basic rights. It’s a really good way of identifying problems before they escalate and proposing solutions that are human rights protective.”