Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT)
Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
Factfile on the SPT
What is the SPT?
The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) is one of the United Nations mechanisms directed to the prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. It started its work in February 2007.
The Protocol gives the SPT the right to visit all places of detention in those States and examine the treatment of people held there.
The Protocol also obliges States to set up independent national preventive mechanisms to examine the treatment of people in detention, make recommendations to government authorities to strengthen protection against torture and comment on existing or proposed legislation. The SPT assists and advises the national preventive mechanisms about ways to strengthen safeguards relating to detention and reinforce their powers and independence.
What does the SPT do?
The SPT visits police stations, prisons (military and civilian), detention centres (pre-trial detention, immigration detention, juvenile justice establishments, etc...), mental health and social care institutions and any other places where people are or may be deprived of their liberty. It recommends action to be taken to improve the treatment of detainees. It does not provide legal advice or assist in litigation, and it cannot provide financial assistance.
How does the SPT do its work?
The SPT examines conditions of individuals’ daily lives in places of detention. SPT members talk in private with people in custody, without the presence of prison or other staff or Government’s representatives.
Members also talk with Government officials, custodial staff, lawyers, doctors, etc, and can recommend immediate changes. Their work is governed by strict confidentiality and they do not give out names or details. People who provide information to the SPT may not be subject to sanctions or reprisals for having provided information to the SPT.
Who are the SPT members?
The SPT is composed of 25 independent and impartial members from various countries which have accepted the Protocol. They have different backgrounds: lawyers, doctors, inspection experts etc. All the SPT members have experience of human rights work. They serve in their individual capacity, do not work for any Government and receive no instruction from state authorities.