The Commonwealth Ombudsman, Michael Manthorpe PSM, addressed the 10th Annual Prisons Conference, presenting on Australia’s journey to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
The Commonwealth Ombudsman, Michael Manthorpe PSM, addressed the 10th Annual Prisons Conference on 15 June 2021, the third time he has presented at this conference regarding Australia’s progress in implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). His speech focused on Australia’s progress so far, and the challenges of conducting inspections in places of detention – specifically immigration detention facilities – during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His presentation outlined the critical role the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman will play once OPCAT is fully implemented as the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) Coordinator, as well as being the NPM for places of detention at the Australian federal level. He discussed the importance of collaboration across different agencies at State and federal level, as well as with civil society. Mr Manthorpe also highlighted the need for the various levels of government in Australia to legislate to facilitate inspections of places of detention within their jurisdictions.
Mr Manthorpe outlined how when faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman initially paused inspection activity due to the exposure risks for staff and detainees. As soon as we could do so safely, we returned to either full inspections in person, or a mixed in-person/video format inspection depending on the circumstances on the ground. Mr Manthorpe highlighted the official statement he made in July 2020, recommending that the number of persons in Australian immigration detention facilities be reduced to lessen the risk of a COVID outbreak in those facilities. Mr Manthorpe noted other inspection bodies around the world had expressed similar concerns. A link to Mr Manthorpe’s July 2020 statement can be found here.
Source: Commonwealth Ombudsman, Australia