Still time for Australia to kick the OPCAT wheels into motion
In early 2013, it seemed Australia was so close to OPCAT ratification, you could almost reach out and touch it.
The year prior, a bipartisan committee of the Federal Parliament had strongly reported in favour of timely ratification. The Federal government was leading a process whereby all States and Territories would pass very similar laws to enable the international Subcommitttee on Prevention of Torture to visit. One state (Tasmania) and two Territories (ACT and Northern Territory) even released draft bills. Then.... things seemed to grind to a halt. It was, after all, an election year and other issues took the headlines.
The election saw a change in government. This month marks one year in office of the Liberal National Party. Ratifying OPCAT has, so far, not featured on their agenda but there is still time and space for the OPCAT wheels to kick into motion once more. To apply a little grease to the cogs, Amnesty International and 63 other organisations, including the APT, recently wrote to the Attorney General to urge OPCAT to be ratified.
It is heartening to see such a groundswell of support from NGOs for OPCAT ratification, and it can be anticipated that many NGOs will include a call for ratification in their alternative report to the UN Committee against Torture, which is reviewing Australia in November. Beyond that, Australia has its UPR review in 2015, and is bidding for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for 2018.
What better way for Australia to launch the campaign for the Human Rights Council than becoming the 75th State Party to the OPCAT?
Photo: Eskinder Debebe/UN Human Rights Council