Penal reform group urges Government to make sure OPCAT bill meets needs



Deirdre Malone

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has urged the Government to ensure that an upcoming bill aimed at ratifying an international treaty on torture and ill-treatment meets the minimum legislative requirements.

Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2007 but has yet to ratify it despite repeated calls from rights groups.

The Government said during the summer that it would bring legislation to ratify the OPCAT before the Oireachtas before the end of the year.

The IPRT has now published an eight-page document setting out what is required of the upcoming bill, following consultation with several lawyers with expertise in the area as well as the chair of the UN sub-committee for the prevention of torture.

Deirdre Malone, executive director of the IPRT, told Irish Legal News: “Ratification of the OPCAT and the establishment of a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) is key to the prevention of ill-treatment wherever people may be deprived of their liberty in Ireland, whether they are in a nursing home or a police cell. The emphasis on prevention is crucial, and this is achieved through a combination of independent monitoring and inspections and the coordination of cross-sectoral learning, expertise and best practice across oversight bodies by the NPM.

“Ireland signed the Optional Protocol in October 2007 but has not yet ratified it, 11 years later. Despite our frustration at the delay in ratification, this now presents an opportunity for Ireland to learn from other jurisdictions and ensure we get the proposed legislation required to ratify OPCAT and the shape of Ireland’s NPM right.

“To inform the legislation, IPRT has set out a Statement of Principles document, which is intended to inform legal professionals, legislators, members of the judiciary, advocacy groups, and those who are supporting individuals deprived of their liberty, to engage with the legislation when it is introduced. Our goal is to ensure we have robust legislation that supports the prevention of torture and ill-treatment of anyone wherever they might be detained in Ireland.”