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

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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 forms of ill-treatment. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2002, and entered into force on June 22, 2006.

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, detention centers, psychiatric institutions, and immigration detention facilities. These visiting bodies, known as National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), have the mandate to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment by monitoring the treatment of individuals and the conditions of detention.

The OPCAT also sets out a range of safeguards aimed at ensuring the protection of persons deprived of their liberty. These include the right to communicate with the outside world, access to legal counsel, medical care, and safeguards for vulnerable groups such as children and persons with disabilities. It emphasizes the importance of transparency, accountability, and cooperation between States parties and the visiting bodies.

States that have ratified the OPCAT are required to establish or designate one or more NPMs to conduct visits to places of detention within their jurisdiction. They are also expected to provide appropriate resources and support to ensure the effective functioning of these mechanisms. The OPCAT encourages States parties to cooperate with each other and with international and regional organizations to enhance the effectiveness of preventive measures against torture.

The OPCAT has been widely ratified and currently has over 90 States parties. It represents an important tool in the global effort to combat torture and other forms of ill-treatment by establishing a framework for preventive measures, accountability, and transparency in places of detention.

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