15 June 2009


Australia has reversed the stance of its previous government by last month signing the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture

The decision means that the government is moving to make torture a criminal offence in Australian law and it also means UN inspectors can visit Australia to monitor and report on human rights in places of detention.

Nevertheless as George Williams the Professor of Law at the University of NSW pointed out in a recent article 'gaping holes' remain in Australia's laws and practices in relation to torture.

Torture is one of the most serious violations of a person’s fundamental rights. It destroys their dignity, body and mind and has far-reaching effects on their family and community.
Despite the absolute prohibition of torture under international law, its practice remains widespread, particularly in places out of public view.

The Optional protocol is the first international instrument which seeks to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment through the establishment of a system of regular visits to places of detention carried out by independent international and national bodies.

International and national bodies will work together to conduct regular visits to all places of detention in all States Parties and will make recommendations to the authorities to establish effective measures to prevent torture and ill-treatments and to improve the conditions of detention of all persons deprived of liberty.

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