Ten years of torture prevention

On 22 June 2016, it was ten years since the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) entered into force. A total of 81 states have endorsed the agreement to date, and significant efforts have been made to prevent torture and inhuman treatment in institutions where people are deprived of their liberty.

The background for OPCAT was a desire to increase the effort to combat and prevent torture and inhuman treatment. The states that have endorsed OPCAT are obliged to establish national preventive mechanisms with a mandate to visit institutions where people are, or may be, deprived of their liberty. The administrative bodies can make recommendations to the institutions where they point out risk factors for integrity violations. The goal of the work is to strengthen the protection of people who are deprived of their liberty.

OPCAT also established an international visiting body, the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT), which can visit all institutions where people are deprived of their liberty in states that have endorsed the agreement. The SPT works in parallel with the national bodies and assists them with advice and guidance.

Two years of prevention in Norway

In Norway, the Storting decided in 2013 that Norway should endorse OPCAT, and the Parliamentary Ombudsman was assigned the role of national preventive mechanism. In spring 2014, the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) was established. Since then, the NPM has visited prisons, police custody facilities, mental health care institutions and the police immigration detention centre at Trandum. This autumn, the NPM will start visiting child welfare institutions.

Dialogue and cooperation are key elements of the NPM’s exercise of its mandate. The Parliamentary Ombudsman is in continuous dialogue with, among others, civil society, control and supervisory bodies and international human rights bodies.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman will be marking the anniversary of OPCAT on 22 June by publishing a report from its visit to Bredtveit women’s prison. Read the report here.

The importance of OPCAT 

The Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) has established its own website that gives examples of the important work that the national preventive mechanisms have conducted over the past ten years.

You can also watch this short animation film about how OPCAT makes it possible to shed light on what goes on behind closed doors:


OPCAT – the torture prevention treaty from APT Geneva on Vimeo.