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The United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) suspended its tour of Australian prisons this week, citing a lack of cooperation from officials and a lack of access to some detention facilities, CNN reported Monday.
SPT representatives arrived in Australia on Oct. 16 for a 12-day tour to inspect the country’s prisons to ensure compliance with an international protocol that aims to protect the human rights of detained individuals – namely the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
The trip was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the UN subcommittee said its staff members were prevented from entering some sites in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, adding that in some cases they were not given “all the relevant information and documentation” they requested.
SPT officials lamented that Australia has done little “to ensure consistent implementation of OPCAT obligations across the country.”
In 2017, Australia became one of 91 signatories to OPCAT but the country has delayed the implementation of crucial requirements of the agreement. One of these includes the creation of an independent torture prevention monitoring body, officially known as the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture.
The agreement has also come under some scrutiny in Australia as state and federal officials are disputing who should pay for improvements made to Australian facilities as the result of any recommendations made by the UN.
Even so, Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said the UN decision was “disappointing” and reiterated that Canberra remained committed to the protocol.
Meanwhile, the Australian Human Rights Law Center has urged the state governments of New South Wales and Queensland to fully comply with the country’s international commitments to prohibit torture.