Optional Protocol to the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment


The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international human rights treaty that aims to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2002, and entered into force on June 22, 2006.

The OPCAT complements the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which was adopted in 1984 and has been ratified by a large number of countries. The CAT prohibits torture and establishes the obligation for states to prevent and combat torture within their jurisdictions.

The OPCAT establishes a system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, such as prisons, police stations, immigration detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, and other detention facilities. These visiting bodies, called National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), have the mandate to monitor the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty and make recommendations to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

Under the OPCAT, states that become party to the treaty are required to establish or designate one or several independent NPMs. These mechanisms should have unrestricted access to places of detention, the power to conduct private interviews with detainees, and the authority to make recommendations to the authorities regarding the treatment and conditions of detainees.

The OPCAT also establishes a Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), which is a UN body composed of independent experts. The SPT has the mandate to visit places of detention in states that have ratified the OPCAT and provide advice and technical assistance to states in establishing and maintaining effective NPMs.

The OPCAT represents an important step in the global effort to prevent torture and promote the protection of human rights. By establishing mechanisms for regular and independent monitoring of places of detention, it seeks to enhance transparency, accountability, and the implementation of safeguards against torture and ill-treatment.

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