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Media Statement: SAHRC welcomes the cabinet decision on the ratification of OPCAT

Attention: Editors and Reporters

Monday, 04 March 2019

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC or Commission) welcomes the cabinet decision of 28 February 2019, to refer the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) to parliament for ratification in terms of section 231 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. The Commission would like to commend the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Honourable John Jeffery for his role and support in this regard.

The OPCAT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 and came into force in 2006. South Africa signed OPCAT in September 2006, however is yet to ratify the protocol. The OPCAT is unique among international conventions and protocols in that it does not promote any new norm, instead, it strengthens national implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).

The OPCAT establishes international and domestic mechanisms for torture prevention through a system of regular visits to places of detention, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.  States are obliged to establish a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to monitor places of deprivation of liberty on an announced or unannounced basis. The SAHRC will be the co-ordinating body for the NPM in South Africa, in accordance with Article 17 of the OPCAT which allows for the establishment of institutions to serve as the NPM. The OPCAT is not prescriptive on the structure for the NPM, however, it has been noted that South Africa has a number of existing oversight bodies which includes the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS), Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and other such bodies. As such, the Commission will play a co-ordinating function for these and other invlolved institutions. The NPM is established to prevent torture and protect the rights of those deprived of their liberty through regular visits to places of detention.

The NPM is required to consult regularly with the Sub-comittee on the Prevention of Torture; make recommendations to applicable authorities to strengthen the prevention of torture; and to comment on proposed legislation or polices regarding places of detention.

Through the NPM’s systemic analysis before, during and after monitoring visits (as well as follow-up visits), the NPM is able to identify trends, improvement or deterioration of the conditions of detention and provide recommendations to reinforce/implement protective measures as underscored by international and domestic human rights law. This creates credibility regionally and internationally as well as legitimacy in respect of independence – envisaged in respect of detained persons.

The Commission notes that parliament will ratify OPCAT as per the approved Cabinet Memo before parliament rises in April 2019.


- Ends


Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission

Gail Smith – Spokesperson Tel: 060 988 3792 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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