Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT)(external link) seeks to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment through the establishment of a system of regular visits to places of detention carried out by independent international and national bodies.

International and national bodies work together to conduct regular visits to all places of detention in all States Parties and make recommendations to the relevant authorities to establish effective measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment, and to improve the conditions of detention of all persons deprived of liberty.

Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

At the international level, the OPCAT provides for the establishment of an international preventive body, called the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture(external link)

The subcommittee has a mandate to visit places where persons are deprived of their liberty in the States Parties to the Protocol and to make recommendations concerning the protection of these persons.

The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture visited New Zealand from 29 April to 8 May 2013. Relevant reports can be accessed through the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights(external link).  They also must report annually about their OPCAT activities.  The reports can be accessed through the Human Rights Commission website - our work OPCAT(external link).

National Preventive Mechanisms

At the national level, States Parties must create or designate National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs)(external link) for the prevention of torture. The NPMs also have a mandate to inspect places of detention. They are empowered to make recommendations to the government aimed at strengthening protections, improving treatment and conditions, and preventing torture or ill-treatment. They also must report annually about their OPCAT activities.

New Zealand’s designated NPMs are the Office of the Ombudsman(external link), the Independent Police Conduct Authority(external link), the Children’s Commissioner(external link) and the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments(external link). The Human Rights Commission(external link) has been appointed to a coordination role as the designated Central National Preventive Mechanism.

New Zealand has implemented the Optional Protocol by means of the Crimes of Torture Act 1989(external link).

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