‘Objection to a visit to a particular place of detention may be made only on urgent and
compelling grounds of national defence, public safety, natural disaster or serious
disorder in the place to be visited that temporarily prevent the carrying out of such a
visit. The existence of a declared state of emergency as such shall not be invoked by a
State Party as a reason to object to a visit.’
4. This suggests that whilst a visit may be objected to on grounds of public safety, which
might include a medical emergency necessitating quarantine, this could only be a
temporary restriction and could not prevent visits to the place of quarantine completely.
In other words, there would need to be a particular reason why such a visit ought not to
take place at a particular point in time, rather than that such visits ought not to take
place at all.
5. This confirms the view that places of quarantine fall within the visiting mandate of an
NPM, although access may be restricted temporarily for strictly limited reasons and not
on the basis that the place in question is a place of quarantine.
6. The SPT notes that Article 20 of the OPCAT provides that the NPM shall have:
(c) Access to all places of detention and their installations and facilities;
(d) The opportunity to have private interviews with the persons deprived of their liberty
without witnesses […].
7. The SPT recognises that whilst quarantine is imposed for the public benefit it must not
result in the ill-treatment of those detained. The role of the NPM is to ensure that all
fundamental safeguards are respected, including the right to be informed about the
reason for being placed in quarantine, to have a third party notified, to have access to
independent legal advice and to be seen by a doctor of one’s own choice.
8. In addition, sufficient and appropriate measures should be put in place in order to
prevent violations of the prohibition of ill-treatment. Such violations can include (or
flow from) discriminatory practices and actions which have the effect of stigmatising
or marginalising particular groups of persons. This may include those individuals and
groups who are considered to be at risk of, or being potential carriers of, viruses.
9. Whilst the visiting mandate of an NPM includes places of compulsory quarantine,
NPMs must be mindful of the ‘do no harm’ principle when exercising that mandate.
This may require adaptations to normal working practises, in the interests of those in
quarantine, those undertaking the visit, and the general interest in halting the spread of
the illness. For example, the opportunity to interview in private may reasonably be
conducted by methods which prevent the transmission of infection, and members of the
NPM accessing places of quarantine might legitimately be subject to medical checks
and other forms of inspection and restriction to ensure the integrity of the quarantine,
as would be the case for others servicing the needs of those being detained.