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Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT)

OP to the Convention against Torture
- Status of ratification,
Reservations and declarations

Convention against torture
- Status of ratification, Reservations and declarations

The SPT and its work

SPT Regional Teams
Press releases
Concept of prevention of torture
Guidelines of the SPT in relation to visits to States parties
E | F | S | R | C | A
SPT visits and follow-up
Outline of a regular SPT visit
Note on the SPT Advisory visits to NPMs
The SPT in brief
Factfile on the SPT
National preventive mechanisms
SPT annual reports
Rules of Procedure
E | F | R | S | A
OPCAT Contact Group
Secretariat contact details

OPCAT Special Fund

OPCAT Special Fund

Further information
Treaty bodies database
Universal Human Rights Index
Related UN Links

Committee against Torture Special Rapporteur on Torture
UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

External links

African Commission on Human and People's Rights
Amnesty International
APT OPCAT Database
Human Rights Implementation Centre of the University of Bristol
Inter-American Commission of Human Rights
Penal Reform International
Torture Reporting Book

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“The objective of the [Optional] Protocol is to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”    
(article 1 of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, (OPCAT))

“A Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the Committee against Torture ...shall be established and shall carry out the functions laid down in the present [Optional] Protocol.”

(article 2.1 of the OPCAT)

The OPCAT obliges States to set up independent national bodies for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment at the domestic level. These preventive national mechanisms must be established one year after the entry into force of the OPCAT or of its ratification or accession.

The mandate of the SPT is twofold: to visit all places of detention in States Parties and to provide assistance and advice to both States Parties and National Preventive Mechanisms.

Independent Experts

The SPT is composed of 25 independent and impartial experts serving in their individual capacity from different backgrounds and from various countries, which have ratified or acceded to the OPCAT. After the fiftieth ratification of or accession, the number of the members of the SPT shall increase to twenty-five.

SPT membership is multidisciplinary, including lawyers, doctors and inspection experts, among others.

Members are elected by States Parties for a four-year term; the term of half the members elected at the first election will expire at the end of two years. They are eligible for re-election once if re-nominated.


The SPT visits police stations, prisons (military and civilian), detention centres (e.g. pre-trial detention centres, immigration detention centres, 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, including conditions of detention.

The visits are conducted by at least two members of the SPT. These members may be accompanied, if needed, by experts of demonstrated professional experience and knowledge in the field. These experts are selected from a roster of experts prepared on the basis of proposals made by States Parties, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention. In preparing the roster, the States Parties concerned may propose no more than five national experts.


Under the OPCAT, the SPT has unrestricted access to all places of detention, their installations and facilities and to all relevant information relating to the treatment and conditions of detention of persons deprived of their liberty.  The SPT must also be granted access to have private interviews with the persons deprived of their liberty, without witnesses, and to any other person who in the SPT’s view may supply relevant information.

The States Parties undertake to ensure that there are no sanctions or reprisals for providing information to SPT members.

Assistance and Advice

According to the OPCAT, the SPT's mandate includes advising and assisting States in the establishment of the NPMs. These national mechanisms have the mandate to examine regularly the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty and make recommendations to the States’ authorities in order to improve the conditions of detention. In the framework of the close cooperation between the SPT and the States Parties, the SPT will make itself available for ongoing dialogue concerning the NPMs. Advising States in the development of effective national mechanisms is a key element in the work of the SPT and will form an important part of each visit.

The SPT advises States Parties about reinforcing the powers, independence and capacity of NPMs.  The SPT also provides NPMs with advice on and assistance in reinforcing their independence and capacities and strengthening safeguards against ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty.  The SPT works in close collaboration with the NPMs, in order to ensure ongoing monitoring of all places of detention.

The OPCAT requires that the composition of the NPMs be established in accordance with a process providing all necessary guarantees of the independence of the NPMs, including the pluralist representation of civil society.


The SPT is guided by core principles: confidentiality, impartiality, non-selectivity, universality and objectivity. The OPCAT is based on co-operation between the SPT and the States Parties.  During its visits, the SPT’s members meet with State officials, NPMs, representatives of national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, as well as with any other person who can provide information relevant to the mandate.

The SPT communicates its recommendations and observations confidentially to the State, and if necessary, to the national preventive mechanisms. The SPT will publish the report, together with comments from the State Party, whenever requested to do so by the State Party. 

However, if the State Party makes part of the report public, the SPT may publish all or part of the report.

Moreover, if a country refuses to co-operate or fails to take steps to improve the situation in light of the SPT’s recommendations, the SPT may request the Committee against Torture to make a public statement or to publish the SPT report.

The SPT presents a public annual report on its activities to the Committee against Torture.

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