What is ‘OPCAT’?

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) is an international human rights treaty designed to prevent torture and ill-treatment in all places of detention. It introduces a system of national and international monitoring of all places of detention.

For an easy to understand guide to the OPCAT, click here to view content produced by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and Inclusion Ireland.

 

How does OPCAT prevent mistreatment?

OPCAT recognises the central importance of inspection as a way of preventing human rights violations. These inspections create transparency and accountability, which in turn act as a deterrent against future cruel treatment.

The national part of the monitoring system introduced by OPCAT is a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM). NPMs conduct regular visits to all types of places where people are deprived of liberty. NPMs must be independent of the government, have access to all places of detention, all information related to such detention and to be able to talk privately with the people who are detained.

The international part of this monitoring system is the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT).

Who benefits from OPCAT?

Places of detention are not limited to prisons. OPCAT applies to anywhere people are deprived of their liberty. The ratification of OPCAT would positively impact the lives of vulnerable children and adults. Examples of places of detention include, but are not limited to:

  • Psychiatric units
  • Children detention schools
  • Nursing homes and social care units
  • Immigration detention centres
  • Special Care Units
  • Pre-trial detention facilities
  • Garda stations

Why ratify?

For Ireland to meet its international obligations, we must put in place sufficient and effective safeguards to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not victimised. The Convention recognizes that it is in closed spaces where the most serious violations of human rights can take place.

Ireland has a troubling history of failing to protect those we have placed in closed spaces. By failing to ratify OPCAT, Ireland perpetuates a situation that increases the vulnerability of all persons currently in detention.

It is essential that Ireland moves towards the creation of an NPM which can ensure that no place of detention is beyond the reach of comprehensive and rigorous inspection.

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In advance of Ireland’s third periodic hearing under the UN Convention against Torture, the Committee against Torture...

Recommendation to prioritise ratification of OPCAT in next Programme for Government

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has written individually to the leaders of each of the Irish political...

UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture issues advice on OPCAT monitoring during COVID-19 pandemic

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture has issued advice for state parties and national preventative mechanisms...

IHREC features OPCAT in submission to UN Committee Against Torture

In its submission to the Committee Against Torture on the list of issues for the Third Examination of Ireland, IHREC...

IPRT highlights lack of ratification of OPCAT in submission to UN Committee Against Torture

In its submission to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), IPRT reviewed Ireland’s progress since the CAT’s...