Lovell Fernandez examines the implications for South Africa of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, adopted by the United Nations in 2002. Having ratified the Convention in 1998, South Africa is obliged to prohibit torture through legislation.
However, the Optional Protocol provides a further important mechanism for combating torture, namely the establishment of National Visiting Mechanisms (NVMs). The NVM must have access to all information on persons deprived of their liberty and must regularly visit places where such people are detained. Existing oversight bodies in South Africa such as the Independent Complaints Directorate and the Human Rights Commission, the author concludes, would not fulfil the requirements arising from ratification as presently constituted. At the time of going to press South Africa had not yet signed the Optional Protocol. [Note: South Africa signed the Protocol on 20 September 2006 but had still not ratified it by November 2010: see SAHRC expresses concerns about reports of torture of persons in custody of the state and to urge for the ratification of OPCAT (8 November 2010) at http://www.sahrc.org.za/home/index.php?ipkMenuID=16&ipkArticleID=34 û Editor]