31 Aug 2002
UN Economic and Social Council endorses Draft Opti

In a vote on 24 July 2002, the UN Economic and Social Council recommended for adoption by the UN General Assembly the draft Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

The draft was adopted by a vote of 35 in favour, eight against (Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan), and 10 abstentions.

The Optional Protocol will now be considered by the UN General Assembly at its upcoming 57th session later this year. In order to be adopted, it will need to have the support of a majority of UN Member States. If adopted, the Optional Protocol will be open for ratification by States Parties to the UN Convention against Torture (130 as at 31 July 2002).

The Optional Protocol will establish a two-pillar system of regular visits by independent international and national bodies to places where persons are deprived of their liberty, with a view to prevention of acts of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Optional Protocol will assist those States that choose to ratify to better implement the obligation to prevent torture (article 2,1 of the UN Convention).

The text of the Optional Protocol is the outcome of 10 years of arduous negotiations by participants in a Working Group established by the UN Human Rights Commission. The text, which combines elements of a number of different texts drafted by members of the working group, enjoys wide support from States from all regions of the world. It is also supported by a coalition of 10 NGOs, among them the IRCT, that have been following the progress of the working group since its establishment in 1991.

The IRCT believes that the text of the Draft Optional Protocol is the best achievable in the circumstances and that it will make an important contribution to the prevention of torture. We urge all States to support its adoption at the UN General Assembly, even if they choose not to ratify it themselves, in recognition of the importance of the subject and of the beneficial effect that the Optional Protocol would have in many countries where torture and cruel treatment continue to take place. 

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