The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) (2006) is an important addition to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (1984). It establishes an international inspection system for places of detention modelled on the system which has existed in Europe since 1987 (the Committee for the Prevention of Torture). The idea for this scheme of torture prevention goes back to the Swiss Committee for the Prevention of Torture (today Association for the Prevention of Torture, APT), founded in 1977 by Jean-Jacques Gautier in Geneva. It envisaged the establishment of a world-wide system of inspection of places of detention, which later took the form of an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984). For a long time, however, the necessary support for such an optional protocol was not forthcoming. As a consequence, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) had at its disposal only relatively weak instruments: it could analyse and discuss the self-reports of the respective governments and create the institution of a Special Rapporteur on Torture. But neither CAT nor its Special Rapporteur had the power to visit countries, let alone inspect prisons, without the respective government's permission. In 1987, the Council of Europe realized the original idea on a regional level with its European Convention for the Prevention of Torture. On this basis, the European Committtee for the Prevention of Torture has demonstrated that regular visits, reports and recommendations to the governments as well as the publication of these reports and the governments' reactions the viability of this model. This in turn led to a breakthrough within the United Nations: OPCAT was created and opened for signatures on January 9, 2003 by the UN General Assembly.
After ratification by the required number of states the Optional Protocol came into force on 22 June, 2006. On 30 March 2007 Cambodia became the 34th State Party to OPCAT. By the end of April 2007, 57 states had signed OPCAT of which 34 of these states had also ratified the convention. The states that had ratified the convention were Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay. States that had signed, but not yet ratified the convention were Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cyprus, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Montenegro, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Togo and Turkey. The following states have neither signed nor ratified the Optional Protocol: Australia, China, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the United States. For updates see the APT and OHCHR web sites.