Kovler Project Against Torture

The Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law's Kovler Project Against Torture is a one-of-a-kind experiential education opportunity through which students, under faculty guidance, make key contributions to the sessions of the United Nations Committee against Torture (UN CAT).  Kovler Student Scholars engage in a “deep dive” on the prohibition of torture in international law and on the professional skills and considerations instrumental to effective lawyering in international settings. Each November, students travel with Project faculty to Geneva to provide on-site legal support to the Committee chairperson and country rapporteurs during the first week of the Committee sessions.


What's New with the Kovler?

Kovler students with the CAT Chair Claud Heller
Claudio Grossman speaks to WCL Kovler Project students and alumni

February 8, 2022: Kovler students and alumni gathered in person and online for the Annual Kovler Project Against Torture Alumni Dinner. Dean Emeritus Claudio Grossman spoke and led the group in community and networking.

Kovler Project participants are a special group of alumni, students, faculty, and friends. They form a global network committed to strengthening human rights and ending torture worldwide, with experiences in the U.S. and abroad that cut across all sectors.

WCL is the only law school in the U.S. and perhaps the world that considers full implementation of the prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment an essential component of its mission. This reunion presents a unique occasion to address important topics including possibilities for the future and for strengthening this tremendous network.

Kovler students with the CAT Chair Claud Heller
Kovler students with the CAT Chair Claud Heller

November 6-12, 2022: Kovler students traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to participate in the 75th session of the Committee against Torture (CAT).  The Kovler Project practicum, led by Professor and Dean Emeritus Claudio Grossman, includes intensive course work on international law and human rights - including a simulation exercise on the CAT‘s work.  Students observed the Committee’s proceedings, engaged in research and provided briefings on country conditions to rapporteurs. Additionally, students met with government and NGO representatives, international civil servants, and alums working in Geneva.

Legal Education in Action

The Kovler Project Against Torture was established in 2004 by Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus Claudio Grossman (former member and chair of the UN Committee Against Torture).  Kovler Student Scholars undertake a practice-oriented deep dive on the prohibition of torture in international law through the Project’s specialized practicum, simulation, and week at the UN Committee against Torture session in Geneva, Switzerland. Students provide the Committee chairperson and country rapporteurs with research on States' compliance with the UN Convention against Torture. Project participants observe the Committee’s proceedings, reflect on advocacy, strategies, and relevant developments, and provide briefings to Committee members.  In anticipation of their week-long engagement with the Committee, students participate in an in-depth simulation of a Committee session, representing both NGOs and State parties, while being questioned by a panel comprised of current and past CAT members.  Students conduct intensive research on the six countries appearing before the Committee in the November session, and work in teams to produce reports identifying compliance issues with the Convention.

The practicum is purpose-oriented, providing students with fundamental background information, supplemented by the students' own research regarding in-country conditions of the States they are assigned.  The practicum's overarching goal is to prepare students to effectively advise the Committee on the compliance of countries.  The practicum also prepares students to be effective lawyers in international settings.  Students develop and apply numerous professional skills, e.g., advocacy and professionalism in multi-cultural contexts; processing faculty feedback with opportunities for guided reflection; legal analysis, reasoning, and research; professional and ethical responsibilities; handling and synthesizing voluminous materials, including confidential and sensitive information; team work and collaborative drafting. 

Our History & Supporters

Founded in 2004 as the UN CAT Project, the Project was endowed in December 2016, in recognition of the Blum-Kovler Foundation’s generous support since 2009. The Founda­tion’s support has enabled more students to intensively counter torture and promote human rights through legal education. Ms. Kelsey Lee Offield also provided much-appreciated support to the Project in 2016.

"The use of torture cannot be ignored. It is quite important that a new generation not tolerate torture. I am so proud to be associated with the work of the law school’s Kovler Project Against Torture."

Peter Kovler, Chairman of the Board, Blum-Kovler Foundation