SYDNEY, 9 February 2017
– UNICEF Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement that it will ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
“Detention settings are punitive and create conditions that increase the risk of abuse, especially for children, who are particularly vulnerable. Liberty is a fundamental human right and depriving children of their liberty carries serious responsibilities,” said Nicole Breeze, Director of Policy and Advocacy at UNICEF Australia.
“Recent events at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and similar reports involving other youth detention centres across Australia indicate that children have been subjected to extended periods of isolation and mechanical restraints. This is unacceptable and demonstrates a real need for improved practices through monitoring and accountability.”
“The Federal Government’s commitment to ratify OPCAT is a significant and positive development. Preventative monitoring will ensure better protection for children who are held in places of detention. This development enhances Australia’s commitment to the UN Convention Against Torture which binds Australia to treat people humanely under international law,” added Ms Breeze.
The Australian Government will now be required to establish a National Preventative Mechanism to monitor all places of detention in Australia and UNICEF Australia understands the Commonwealth Ombudsman will perform this role.
UNICEF Australia encourages the Australian Government to ensure that preventative monitoring also be applied to all relevant offshore locations such as immigration detention facilities or sites used for military purposes.
To prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of children, facilities must be safe and appropriate for children. Staff working in settings where children are detained must also have adequate skills and training to work with children safely, including on the use of de-escalation measures.
“To better protect children, the Governments of Australia must now provide sufficient resourcing to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and other relevant state and territory mechanisms so that these organisations have the expertise and resources needed to perform their function.”
“The ratification of OPCAT will reinforce the important work of the National Children’s Commissioner, the Australian Human Rights Commission and others who have worked for ratification for some years. It also signals a commitment by the Federal Government and others to prevent abuse in detention facilities. UNICEF Australia looks forward to seeing increased protections for people in detention, including children.’’ Ms Breeze said.
Note to Editors
for UNICEF Australia's submission to the National Children's Commissioner on the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in May 2016.
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