Consultative Seminar: Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

In May 2012 a high level political decision was taken that South Africa ought to speedily comply with all its outstanding international human rights obligations. A notable achievement in line with this decision is the recent approval by Cabinet of South Africa’s accession to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
 
South Africa now seeks to ratify the Optional Protocol Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which it signed in 2002. The objective of the OPCAT is to prevent abuses and ill-treatment of people held in closed detention centres.

Background and justification
 
South Africa has a history of human rights violations and perpetration of torture under the Apartheid regime, so its ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment in 1998 was in furtherance of its commitment to taking steps to prevent, prohibit and respond to torture. In that line, the Prevention and Combating of Torture Bill was introduced into Parliament in March 2012 to domesticate the Convention and to create a criminal offence of torture. South Africa was one of the States that played a significant role in the drafting of Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which South Africa became signatory to in 2006.
 
The OPCAT aims to establish a system of regular visits to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. OPCAT obliges States Parties to establish one or more independent National Preventive Mechanisms (NPM) to undertake these visits. The NPM must at least:

  • Regularly examine the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in places of detention with a view to strengthening, if necessary, their protection against torture and other ill treatment;
  • Make recommendations to the relevant authorities with the aim of improving the treatment and conditions of persons deprived of their liberty, taking into account the relevant norms of the United Nations; and
  • Submit proposals and observations concerning existing or draft legislation and regulations.

On 22 June 2006 the Optional Protocol entered into force after twenty (20) states became party to it. There are currently 64States Parties and a further 22 signatories to the Protocol. There are currently 10 States Parties in Africa.
 
In view of the impending ratification of OPCAT, South Africa is at a point where it is important to discuss and propose a system of oversight over places of detention as contemplated in OPCAT. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development established an inter-sectoral task team to develop proposals for the establishment of one or more NPMs and to prepare for ratification. The task-team has developed a proposed model for an NPM.
 
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is hosting a consultative seminar on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture
on 23 November 2012 in Pretoria.

The meeting is aimed at further discussions and thoughts sharing with relevant stakeholders including civil society organisations.

Objectives

The objectives of the meeting are:

  • To create awareness about OPCAT and its implications for South Africa after it is ratified;
  • To present and discuss the proposals developed by the Inter-sectoral Task Team;
  • To consult with relevant stakeholders about the most appropriate National Preventative Mechanism to be established in South Africa;
  • Identify further action steps to be taken in the planning for ratification and implementation of OPCAT.

Expected results

The meeting is expected to generate a shared understanding about the OPCAT, its requirements for one or more NPMs in South Africa and the form that that NPM might take. It is hoped that this meeting will set a course of action for the way ahead, identifying further steps towards ratification and implementation of OPCAT.

Methodology

The meeting is planned as one day-workshop which will be dedicated to gaining a broader understanding of what OPCAT is with a discussion of how an NPM should function.

To register, fill in the registration form available here.

For more information contact:

Pearl  N. Nhlapo
State Law Advisor: International Legal Relations
Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
Tel: 012 315 1538
Fax:  0865699006/ 012 315 1557
Mobile: 082 863 2261
E-mail: PeNhlapo@justice.gov.za

For more about the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, refer to www.justice.gov.za.

Event Start Date: 
Friday, 23 November, 2012
Event End Date: 
Friday, 23 November, 2012
Event Venue: 
Plot 75 Zeekoegat, Kameeldrift Road, Kameeldrift East, Pretoria
Event Type: 
Seminar
Location: 
Pretoria

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