Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
25 April 2019
Documents to be deposited with the United Nations (UN) in order to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) have been drawn up.
The deputy minister of justice and constitutional development, John Jeffery, confirmed this during an address at a Breakfast Seminar on the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) in Pretoria.
According to the deputy minister, the documents will soon be submitted to the international relations and cooperation department for depositing at the UN.
South Africa signed the OPCAT in September 2006 and parliament approved its ratification in March 2019.
OPCAT calls for a NPM to be set up to carry out site visits at places of detention.
The deputy minister acknowledged the work of the Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the justice and constitutional development department, in “revising and re-conceptualising the proposed NPM model”.
“The model had to take into account certain factors, such as the fact that OPCAT is a preventive treaty which introduces a system of regular visits to places of detention, by means of the establishment of a mechanism, the NPM.”
The deputy minister pointed out that OPCAT stipulates that the NPM can only visit places of detention where “persons are deprived of their liberty by public authorities, or by a court order or State sanction”.
Institutions that will be able to contribute towards the work of the NPM subject to legislative amendments to their enabling legislation and/ or the conclusion of a memorandum of agreement include:
• The Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services;
• The Independent Police Investigative Directorate;
• The Military Ombud;
• The Health Ombud;
• The Compliance Inspectorate of the Office of Health Standards Compliance;
• The Department of Social Development’s secure care and Child and Youth Care Centres’ monitoring mechanism; and
• Mental Health Review Boards.
The NPM will also be tasked with recommending ways of improving the treatment and the conditions of detained persons.
“It has to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, taking into consideration the relevant norms of the United Nations and our Constitution, as well as submitting proposals and observations concerning existing or draft legislation.”
The deputy minister emphasized that the NPM should “complement, rather than replace, existing systems of oversight and its establishment should not preclude the creation or operation of other such complementary systems”.