Where does South Africa stand on ratifying OPCAT?

Advocate John Makhubele, Deputy Chief State Law Adviser and Head of the International Relations Unit in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

Advocate John Makhubele, Deputy Chief State Law Adviser and Head of the International Relations Unit in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…government has expressed its intention to ratify OPCAT on a number of occasions, but has also stressed that it necessary to have a plan for a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) in place before doing so. The ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) has received the attention of the JCPS Cluster of DG’s and the target date for approval by Cabinet is November 2014.”

Speaking on behalf of Minister Masutha at WJP’s Symposium on Torture Prevention, keynote speaker Advocate John Makhubele stressed the need for an establishment of independent oversight mechanisms. He reiterated that South Africa will need to form a NPM after ratifying OPCAT, whose mandate will be to:

  • Regularly examine detainees
  • Make recommendations to the relevant authorities
  • Submit proposals on existing and proposed draft legislation

Adv Makhubele mentioned that NPMs do not have to be government bodies; they could include institutions such as human rights commissions, parliamentary commissions, NGOs, etc. Furthermore, designated NPMs will visit any place within the State Party’s jurisdiction and control where persons are or may be denied their freedom.

Looking at the current South African context, he noted that in the absence of a NPM, there are two existing bodies with an oversight mandate: the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS).

Adv Makhubele reiterated the government’s commitment to preventing and combating torture and said he hopes a recommendation to Cabinet will be made in November 2014 about ratifying OPCAT.

He also emphasized that the fight against torture is a combined effort which requires links from all levels of society. He called on civil society to play an integral part in the process of preventing torture, as this lends credibility and legitimacy to the process.

“The role of torture prevention is not the sole responsibility of one organ or body, but is a collective responsibility which when shared eases the obligation and ensures successful outcomes,” said Adv Makhubele.

The full text of Adv Makhubele’s speech will be included in our Symposium outcome document, to be published online soon.

Also Read:

“A long way before torture ends”

 

 

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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