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Suspension of visit by UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

The Australian Government regrets the decision of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) to suspend its visit to Australia.

It is disappointing that the New South Wales Government refused to allow the SPT to visit any state-run places of detention across that state.

The SPT experienced some difficulties in accessing specific places of detention in jurisdictions other than NSW. These difficulties were unfortunate, but attempts were made to resolve issues in good faith. Access to Commonwealth-run places of detention were facilitated in all cases.

Australia has been a party to the Convention since 1989 and ratified the Optional Protocol in 2017. No state or territory objected to ratification. No state or territory has requested funding to facilitate the SPT’s visit, which had its costs met by the UN.

The decision of the SPT to cancel its visit, more than halfway through its scheduled time in Australia, is a development that could have been avoided. The SPT had carried out a number of successful visits to places of detention across the country.

The suspension of the visit does not change the Australian Government’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights domestically and internationally. It is vital that places of detention in Australia maintain the rights of those who are held within their walls. Australia does not resile from efforts to raise global human rights standards and hold others to account. Likewise, we remain willing to face scrutiny of our own human rights record.

I assure the Australian people and the international community that the Australian Government’s commitment to human rights endures. The Government will continue to raise these matters with states and territories.