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Involving civil society in preventing ill treatment in detention: maximising OPCAT’s opportunity for Australia

Pages 91-112
Published online: 02 May 2019


Civil society advocacy was an important factor contributing to Australia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). OPCAT requires States to establish a domestic detention monitoring framework and receive occasional visits from a United Nations (UN) subcommittee, with the aim of preventing ill treatment in closed environments. But what role can and should civil society play post ratification? Civil society has significant experience and expertise working in closed environments. This includes through work providing support, services and programmes for persons deprived of their liberty, and advocating for rights protection or seeking remedies or redress for rights violations. In particular, civil society can bring expertise about vulnerable groups and their experiences in detention, which can enhance the capacity of National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to prevent ill treatment. With 88 OPCAT State Parties at the time of writing, there are many international examples of civil society participation in the OPCAT framework, including civil society’s direct involvement in the NPM. To realise OPCAT’s full potential, Australian Federal and State/Territory governments and potential NPMs must recognise civil society as an essential stakeholder. Civil society must also seize the opportunity that OPCAT presents to actively engage in OPCAT implementation.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.


1. For example, in Denmark, Moldova and Serbia. Note that the term ‘Ombudsman plus’ is also used to describe situations where the Ombudsman’s office has been expanded beyond its traditional mandate to encompass NPM functions (OHCHR Citation2018b, 8).

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Rebecca Minty

Rebecca Minty is the Deputy Inspector of Correctional Services at the ACT Office of the Inspector of Correctional Services. The views expressed in this article are her own. The author is grateful to Bronwyn Naylor for her advice and feedback on earlier drafts of the article, and to the anonymous reviewers for their comments.

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