What is the OPCAT?

The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) is a unique international human rights treaty which assists States to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment.


How does the OPCAT assist States to prevent torture?

The OPCAT establishes a system of regular visits to all places of detention, conducted by national bodies, the National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) and an international body, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT). The OPCAT bodies work in close cooperation with national authorities, identifying gaps in laws and practice to protect the rights and dignity of all persons deprived of their liberty.


Who can ratify the OPCAT?

All States that have ratified or acceded to the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) can ratify or accede to its Optional Protocol (OPCAT). States who have not yet ratified the UNCAT can ratify both treaties at the same time.


What are the National Preventive Mechanisms?

National Preventive Mechanisms are national detention monitoring bodies, set up by the States. They have multidisciplinary expertise and should be functionally independent bodies with financial autonomy.

The OPCAT does not foresee any specific model for NPMs. The States decide on the most appropriate structure for the NPMs, according to their national context. They can set up NPMs within one or more existing institution, or establish new specialised bodies. But they have to ensure that the NPMs are independent, have adequate resources and expertise. National authorities have to cooperate with the NPMs.


What do NPMs do?


What is the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture?

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture’s is a UN body established by the OPCAT. The SPT consists of 25 independent experts with multidisciplinary expertise from different regions. They are elected by States Parties to the OPCAT.


What does the SPT do?


Which places of detention can be visited by NPMs and the SPT?

NPMs and the SPT can visit any type of places where persons are, or may be, deprived of their liberty by public authorities, or with State consent or acquiescence. Places include, but are not limited to: prisons, police stations, pre-trial facilities, transport vehicles, hospitals, immigration centres, psychiatric institutions, children’s homes, military facilities, airports, etc.


What is the OPCAT Special Fund?

The Special Fund of the OPCAT supports educational programmes for NPMs and initiatives which contribute to the implementation of recommendations made by the SPT in States which have been visited by the SPT and have published the visit report.


What is the difference between the SPT, the CAT and the Special Rapporteur on Torture?

These three UN bodies cooperate with each other but have different functions.


What do States Parties to the OPCAT have to do?


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