UN torture inspectors interrupt visit to Australia due to obstructions
The United Nations suspends a visit to Australian detention facilities due to being denied access to several facilities and accuses the country of a “clear breach” of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (Opcat) obligations.
The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) said on Sunday it had to interrupt its 12-day mission to Australia after several obstructions to its work and after being denied access to detention facilities.
"The SPT delegation has been prevented from visiting several places where people are detained, experienced difficulties in carrying out a full visit at other locations, and was not given all the relevant information and documentation it had requested," the UN body said in a statement.
As a consequence of such obstacles, the four-member delegation decided to suspend the mission, which began on October 16 and was supposed to last till October 27.
Aisha Shujune Muhammad, the head of the delegation, criticized Australia for the obstructions, saying they are "a clear breach" of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) obligations.
"State parties have an obligation to both receive the SPT in their territory and allow it to exercise its mandate in full," the UN official said.
91 states have ratified the OPCAT. The SPT "can undertake visits to all States parties to the Optional Protocol, carry out unannounced visits to all detention facilities and conduct private interviews with people deprived of their liberty without witnesses," according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The SPT visit was scheduled with the purpose of advising and assisting the State party in meeting its international commitments to prevent torture and inhuman treatment.
“Our main objective is to assess how the authorities have implemented their obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), including those initiatives about maintaining, designing, and setting up one or more visiting bodies to form the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture in the country,” said the head of the delegation days ago.
“We will also assess the treatment of people deprived of their liberty, and examine the existing protection measures against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” she added.
The SPT was initially scheduled to visit Australia in April 2020; however, the mission was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.