§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)
I am pleased to be able to announce that, today, the UK will ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) when our permanent representative to the UN will deposit the instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary General.
The UK will become the first member of the European Union and the third country in the world to ratify the Optional Protocol. The UK believes that the Protocol will promote a more intensive and concerted approach to eradicate torture through a preventive system of regular, independent visits to places of detention. We will now undertake a campaign urging other countries to sign, ratify and implement both the Convention Against Torture and the Optional Protocol. The Protocol will come into force when 20 countries have ratified it.
The UK is committed to the fight against torture. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's anti-torture initiative, launched in 1998. continues to provide a focus for us on this issue. The UK played an important role in securing the adoption of the Optional Protocol in 2002 by undertaking extensive lobbying of countries around the world to support the Protocol. The follow-up to our ratification of the OPCAT will be an important part of the current phase of the initiative.