OPCAT - The National Preventive Mechanism
On 7 November 2014, the Parliamentary Ombudsman became the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) under the UN convention against torture, OPCAT.*
It is the task of the NPM to regularly examine the treatment of the persons deprived of their liberty in places of detention.
Places of detention include:
- police departments and remand prisons
- detention units for foreigners
- psychiatric hospitals
- residential schools
- child welfare institutions
- care homes and residential units for the elderly and those with intellectual disabilities.
New features to inspections
Now the Ombudsman can also inspect private places where people are, or may be, deprived of their liberty, either by virtue of an order given by a public authority, at its instigation, or with its consent or acquiescence. These include, for example, detention facilities on board ships or aircraft, or in connection with certain public events.
Also, when carrying out duties in the capacity of the NPM, the Ombudsman may rely on expert assistance. He or she may appoint as an expert a person who has particular expertise relevant to the inspection duties of the NPM. Valuable information and help may also be received from different users of services.
A long-awaited renewal
Finland signed the Optional Protocol in 2003. Ratification of the protocol was prepared under the leadership of the Foreign Ministry during the years 2006 - 2011. The government decree was presented in December 2012 and parliament adopted the laws accompanying the ratification in April 2013.
A new chapter, 1a. National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)', was added to the Parliamentary Ombudsman Act. The laws entered into force on 7 November 2014.
The ratification took place on 8 October 2014 after Ahvenanmaa had assented to the enforcement of the laws on Ahvenanmaa.
* The official name of NPM is Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).