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Human Rights Concerns: Australia Misses Deadline to Implement UN’s Anti-Torture Protocols



In 2009 Australia signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and ratified the convention in 2017.


This convention requires that every state and territory have a designated ‘National Preventive Mechanism’ to carry out inspections and oversight of police and prison cells (including other places of detention) to protect against torture, mistreatment, abuse and systemic failings.


The mechanism would have the power to interview inmates and detainees, make recommendations for improvements and publish findings.


The Victorian government, along with New South Wales and Queensland will miss the latest deadline to establish these protocols which aim to prevent torture and inhuman treatment of detained people


Victoria’s failure to meet the UN’s deadline of January 20 2023, prompted many organisations to write a letter to Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes.


“In the five years since Australia signed onto OPCAT… effective independent oversight could have prevented numerous instances of abuse, torture, and even death of people deprived of their liberty,” the letter, published on 17 January 2023, said.

Victoria’s prisons have come under pressure from staff shortages, leading to unrest and reports of stricter conditions including increased prisoner lockdowns.


Human Rights Watch in their 2023 World Report criticised Australia as Indigenous people are significantly overrepresented in the criminal justice system among those who are imprisoned and die in custody.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the imprisonment of Indigenous Victorians increased 9% in the last quarter of 2022, which is much higher than any other state or territory.


In 2021 there were 11 Indigenous deaths in custody and 17 in 2022.



A spokesperson for Dreyfus said on January 17 that the Albanese government was committed to fulfilling Australia’s international obligations under OPCAT, but that “a number of states and territories are yet to fully establish national preventative mechanisms”.


For further information, please visit:


Jack Latimore, “Victoria misses deadline for UN’s anti-torture protocols as prison pressure mounts”, The Age: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/victoria-misses-deadline-for-un-s-anti-torture-protocols-as-prison-pressure-mounts-20230113-p5ccas.html


Human Rights Law Centre , “Australia to miss deadline to implement anti-torture protocols”: https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2023-opcat-deadline-missed


Human Rights Watch, “Australia: Events of 2022”, World Report 2023:

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