UNCAT Briefing Paper






Principal obligations of the UNCAT

3. What is the Optional Protocol to the UNCAT?
The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) is designed to give
States the practical assistance needed to effectively prevent torture and other forms of illtreatment, and significantly help fulfil the obligations of the UNCAT.
The OPCAT does not set new norms or standards. It instead establishes a system of regular
visits to all places of detention, conducted by national and international bodies, which work
in close cooperation with national authorities, identifying gaps in laws and practice to protect
the rights and dignity of all persons deprived of their liberty. 2
A State may ratify the Optional Protocol at the same time as, or at any time after, ratifying the

4. What are the priorities on UNCAT signature or ratification?
Pursuant to the international law of treaties, a signing State does not undertake positive legal
obligations under the UNCAT upon its signature. However, the signature indicates the State’s
intention to take steps to express its consent to be bound by the UNCAT at a later date.
Signature also creates an obligation, in the period between signature and ratification to
refrain in good faith from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the UNCAT.
On ratification, a State agrees to formally consent to be bound by its obligations, engaging
its international responsibility. The State must take steps to implement the obligations of the
UNCAT in good faith, and to report to the Committee within one year on the steps it has

For more information on the OPCAT, please see the dedicated APT webpages, at http://www.apt.ch/en/what-isthe-opcat/.


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