The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is commonly known as the Convention against Torture or 'UNCAT'. The UK ratified UNCAT in 1988 and in 2003, the UK also ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

What does UNCAT do?

The Convention prohibits torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. States parties agree to prevent acts of torture in connection with lots of activities, including arresting and detaining a person.

Monitoring UNCAT

UNCAT is monitored by the Committee against Torture which is made up of 10 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by its States parties.

The Committee against Torture works to hold States accountable for human rights violations, investigating reports of torture in order to stop and prevent it from happening. 

The UK’s last report to UNCAT was published in 2018, with concluding observations published in 2019.

Here are some of the important Concluding Observations made by the Committee:

  • To incorporate UNCAT into UK law.
  • Ensure the UK Government remains signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights and does not repeal, nor (negatively) change the Human Rights Act 1988.
  • Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into the numerous allegations of ill-treatment in places such as immigration removal centres, prisons and youth custody settings.
  • Further efforts to deal with overcrowding, poor conditions, violence, homicides and self-harm in prisons.
  • Strengthened action to address increased hate crime, in particular racist, xenophobic, anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-disabled and anti-transgender hate crimes.

The UK published a follow-up report in 2020 and its next report is due in 2023.

What does OPCAT do?

OPCAT is a human rights treaty that assists in the implementation of and builds on UNCAT. It helps States meet their obligations under CAT and aims to prevent the mistreatment of people in detention.

Under OPCAT, State Parties agree to establish an independent National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to conduct inspections of all places of detention and closed environments. In addition to the NPM, State Parties also agree to international inspections of places of detention. 

Monitoring OPCAT

Monitoring of OPCAT is undertaken by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT).

The SPT engages with states on a confidential basis and cannot publish reports and recommendations unless under agreement with the State Party.