The President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, Josh Pallas, today condemned the actions by prison officers at a Queanbeyan facility that prevented the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment from making an unannounced visit to the facility.
"When Australia signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Torture (OPCAT), it committed to allowing such visits", he said.
The Minister for Corrections, Geoff Lee, is just wrong when he says “The whole role of our jail system is to keep people safe, protect us from the criminals that we lock up every day. It’s not to allow people just to wander through at their leisure." When Australia signed the OPCAT, it became its role, it became its duty, to allow these inspections.
The refusal by New South Wales, and a similar refusal by Queensland, will do immense harm to Australia’s reputation at the United Nations.
We are particularly concerned by the Minister’s response on radio 2GB, as reported by the Guardian and SBS, that the prison officers had done the right thing. He is reported to have said “The whole role of our jail system is to keep people safe, protect us from the criminals that we lock up every day. It’s not to allow people just to wander through at their leisure…They should be off to Iran looking for human rights violations there.”
For more information, read our submission to the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.