Looking to Ireland for OPCAT Inspiration

As the discussion continues about if and when Canada will ratify the OPCAT, attention has very recently fallen onto this same OPCAT process in Ireland.

Ireland signed the OPCAT as long ago as October 2007. More than a decade later, however, the country has yet to ratify the instrument, although ratification is expected sooner as opposed to Canada’s later.

With this distinct possibility in mind, the leading domestic civil society actors, Irish Penal Reform Trust and Irish Criminal Bar Association co-hosted a short seminar on the OPCAT in Dublin, Ireland on 12 November 2018.

Titled ‘Detention, Human Rights and the OPCAT’, the highlights of the event have recently been made available in a short 15-minute YouTube video.  

‘Detention, Human Rights & the OPCAT’, Dublin 12 November 2018.

This highlights-video comes as recommended watching for Canadian human rights actors who may be interested in learning more about an on-going OPCAT ratification process in a neighbouring European country. Moreover, like Canada, Ireland may designate multiple existing monitoring bodies as its future NPM, which will throw up certain distinct practical challenges.  

This snap-shot overview of the recent Ireland OPCAT event additionally offers some illuminating insights into how the ratification of the OPCAT could potentially make a positive impact on a range of detention settings in the country.    

In view of the imminence of OPCAT ratification-related legislation being tabled in Ireland, the Irish Penal Reform Trust has also developed a highly useful so-called ‘Statement of Principles’ document. This short paper outlines the minimum legislative requirements for any legislation intended to ratify the OPCAT across the following three areas:

  • Independence of the future NPM;
  • Functions of the NPM;
  • Members/staff of the NPM.

This document, which can be downloaded in English here, will be of particular interest to Canadian readers keen on knowing more about the key attributes which NPMs should possess, if they are to meet the minimum requirements of the OPCAT text. Regarding the practical utility of the said ‘Statement of Principles’, according to its IPRT authors:

“This statement of principles is intended to inform legal professionals, legislators, members of the judiciary, advocacy groups, and those who are supporting individuals deprived of their liberty, to engage with the legislation when it is introduced.

This documents closely reflects the most recently published Guidance from the Office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner. In the preparation of this document IPRT also consulted several lawyers with expertise in this area as well as the Chair of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture.”

The Canada OPCAT Project will keep you posted about these fascinating OPCAT-related developments across the Atlantic. Until then, readers may wish to watch the following animation produced by the IPRT, which argues why the country should move forward to ratify this important anti-torture instrument. After all, the parallel arguments in the Canadian context are not at all dissimilar.

The OHCHR 2018 publication, referred to above in the quotation, Preventing Torture: The Role of National Preventive Mechanisms, can be found under NPM Resources.   

Other videos about the OPCAT can also be found under Electronic OPCAT.

Posted by mp

Norway’s NPM: Some More Useful Lessons for Canada

In her cutting-edge series of human rights and criminal justice interviews the Irish broadcaster and writer, Jane Mulcahy, has posted a new Law & Justice Soundcloud interview with the Head of Norway’s NPM.

In this fascinating recent conversation with Helga Fastrup Ervik, Jane Mulcahy broaches a range of different OPCAT-related topics. Canadian human rights experts and lay-persons alike will find some interesting insights in this revealing exchange, including into the operation of Norway’s NPM in practice and the related challenges it faces.

Norway's NPM

Jane Mulcahy Interview with NPM Head, Helga Fastrup Ervik (copyright of Jane Mulcahy).

The Norwegian NPM representative also tackles the the question head on why countries like Canada and Ireland should ratify the OPCAT (at 10 minutes 30 seconds onwards).

In the interview Helga Fastrup Ervik makes it clear that, contrary to popular belief, all is not 100% well in her country’s prison estate. As in Canada, resort to isolation of prisoners and limited out-of-cell activity are common challenges found within the system.

Norway's NPMNorway ratified the OPCAT in June 2013 and designated the Parliamentary Ombudsman as the NPM the same month. The NPM has been operating since 2014 and consists of an independent department within the Parliamentary Ombudsman, comprising a team of seven multi-disciplinary staff. Detailed information about the structure and operation of Norway’s NPM can be found on its website in English.

A good snapshot of the scope activities of the activities of the Norwegian NPM can also be obtained by delving into the institution’s 2017 Annual Report (please click on the adjacent image to access this report) or its different news items.

Equally as interesting past OPCAT-focused interviews conducted by Jane Mulcahy are also available on-line, including with the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention Chair, Malcolm Evans, and Australian OPCAT expert, Steven Caruana.

Posted by mp

Canada/Ireland – Time To Ratify OPCAT

As the discussion continues on if and when Canada will ratify the OPCAT, attention falls on the same OPCAT process in Ireland.

On 2 October 2007 Ireland signed the OPCAT. More than a decade later, however, the country has yet to ratify the instrument. The highly-respected NGO, Irish Penal Reform Trust, has produced the following animation, arguing why the country should move forward to ratify this important anti-torture instrument.

Canadian readers may find parallels with their own country, even though Canada has not yet signed the OPCAT. You can make your own mind up!

Posted by mp in OPCAT, Ratification