OPCAT FAQ

What is OPCAT?
OPCAT stands for the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. It is an international treaty that requires ratifying countries to set up “National Preventive Mechanisms” (NPMs) to ensure that torture does not occur in those countries. It also allows international inspectors access to all places of confinement under the jurisdiction of ratifying countries to monitor the NPMs.

How many countries have ratified OPCAT?
As of August 4, 2011, 60 countries have ratified OPCAT and 21 additional countries have begun the process of joining OPCAT by signing it.

What is the U.S. position on OPCAT?
In 2002, the U.S. was one of only four countries to vote against OPCAT in the UN General Assembly. Since its passage, the U.S. has neither signed nor ratified OPCAT.

How can I get involved in NRCAT's efforts on OPCAT?
Glad you asked. Here are a few ways as an individual and in your community and congregation.

What is the process for the U.S. to adopt OPCAT?
The President must sign the treaty and submit it to the Senate for ratification. It takes 67 votes in the Senate to ratify a treaty.

Will the Senate ratify OPCAT?
If President Obama signs OPCAT, it will probably take a long time for the Senate to ratify since 67 senators are not yet convinced of the importance of OPCAT. (President Reagan signed the Convention Against Torture in 1988, but the Senate didn’t ratify it until 1994.) Persistent advocacy in favor of OPCAT is necessary to garner the 67 votes needed to ratify the treaty. Ratification is a long term goal – it will take people working to educate others in their community and policymakers to achieve it.

What can be done before ratification?
Even without having ratified OPCAT, the U.S. can still develop mechanisms to prevent the torture of prisoners under its jurisdiction. It can also provide resources to countries that have ratified the treaty to assist them in developing and implementing National Preventive Mechanisms. Doing so may be an important way to educate U.S. policymakers about the benefits of OPCAT while helping to prevent torture in other countries.

What types of places of confinement does OPCAT allow access to?
OPCAT allows international inspectors access to all places of confinement. These include jails, prisons, immigrant detention centers, psychiatric institutions, and any other facilities in which individuals are involuntarily detained.

 
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