The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture – OPCAT – sends a clear message: the risk of torture and other ill-treatment exists in all situations where persons are deprived of their liberty. Therefore, prevention is needed everywhere and at all times.
Today, 10 years after the OPCAT entered into force, more than 80 States have agreed to open up their places of detention to independent oversight by the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and National Preventive Mechanisms. In these first 10 years, the global system of preventing torture has led to important changes in law and practices around the world. This year is an opportunity to highlight some of these positive changes and encourage further efforts to protect rights and dignity in detention.
Stories of Change
How the OPCAT makes a difference

The OPCAT is unique in providing international and national independent bodies with access to all places of detention. The fact that the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) and National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) can visit any place of detention increases transparency and accountability, and can deter abuses. The SPT and NPMs can examine all aspects of detention and identify the risks of torture and other ill-treatment.

The OPCAT is based on cooperation and dialogue between the States, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and National Preventive Mechanisms but also with civil society. This creates a constructive climate to find solutions to the causes of torture and other ill-treatment and achieve long-term and sustainable changes.

The OPCAT monitoring bodies analyse and address the whole range of factors that might lead to torture and other ill-treatment, both identified within places of detention and related to public policies and legislation. This preventive system contributes to better treatment of all persons deprived of liberty and improved conditions of detention, including for persons in a situation of specific vulnerability.

States from all over the world have joined the global torture prevention system established by the OPCAT. Being part of this international system allows for contacts, cooperation and exchanges between the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, National Preventive Mechanisms and States, and ultimately contributes to greater protection for persons in detention.

Ukraine: Beyond the traditional - protecting the rights of palliative patients
United Kingdom: Influencing detention policy through collective efforts
Croatia: Detention of refugees and asylum seekers – a particular challenge
Uruguay: Enhanced protection of children deprived of liberty
Mali: Guaranteeing detainees the right to health
Serbia: Questioning the institutionalization of persons with mental disabilities
Sweden: Respecting women’s dignity by ending cross-gender pat searches
Estonia: Addressing the specific needs of children in detention
Switzerland: Improving the conditions of pre-trial detainees
Austria: Raising human rights standards in police custody through constructive dialogue