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Victorian Ombudsman Shares Practices of Human Rights Protection at Control Yuan

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass and Mr. Andrew Adason, Lead of OPCAT and senior investigator from her office, visited the Control Yuan on October 1, 2019, after taking part in the 31st Australasian and Pacific Ombudsman Region (APOR) Conference hosted by the CY in Taipei from September 25 to 27. The visiting dignitaries from the southeastern Australian state of Victoria also delivered speeches on the theme of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), sharing how the office of Ombudsman has implemented the U.N. treaty and introducing related investigatory work and results. They engaged in open and friendly discussions with CY President Chang Po-ya as well as CY Members and staff.

In her speech, Ombudsman Glass noted that Australia ratified OPCAT in 2017 and that her office has since carried out two pilot investigations using OPCAT standards where possible to test how National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) inspections might work in practice in Victoria. She also pointed out that the main purpose of OPCAT is to shine the light on dark corners and improve human rights. During the investigations, her team discovered situations of human rights violations, such as strip searches at women’s prisons and unreasonably lengthy periods of solitary confinement. The release of the investigation reports attracted domestic and foreign media attention and prompted calls for related agencies to improve the situation.

Also speaking during the visit, Mr. Adason elaborated on how to lead inspection team visits to prisons and to complete the investigation reports. He gave detailed explanations on conducting advanced planning, organizing expert working groups, carrying out on-site inspections, and analyzing investigation data. He explained that the office of Ombudsman notified the prison managers of the investigation results and engaged in discussion with the Ombudsman on how to solve the human rights problems discovered in the investigations and improve the situation.

Ms. Glass stated that serving as an ombudsman entails continuous learning, adding that her office and the Control Yuan, which both care about human rights issues, can benefit from each other through experience-sharing and exchanges. Mr. Adason said he was delighted to have the opportunity to share his investigatory experience at the Control Yuan, especially since the CY will be designated an NPM. He added that he looks forward to both institutes further advancing good governance and human rights protection through their exchanges.