2013 UN CAT Project (Now Kovler Project Against Torture)

Since 2004, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UN CAT) Project has been giving American University Washington College of Law students the opportunity to experience firsthand the UN CAT proceedings in Geneva, Switzerland.

With the generous support of the Kovler Foundation, ten students participated in the project this year. Participants were: Alexandra Arango, Nisha Arekapudi, Sara Harlow, Paul Jurado, Alexandra Kane, Manuela Londoño, Marisa Menezes, Andra Nicolescu, Ashton Simmons, and Alyssa Zamora.

Together with UN CAT Project Coordinator Jennifer de Laurentiis and Professors Janie Chuang and Fernanda Nicola, participants joined Dean Grossman in Geneva in October, where in his capacity as chair of UN CAT, he presided over the Committee's 51st session (Oct. 28-Nov. 22, 2013). Grossman also served as rapporteur for Portugal and co-rapporteur for Mozambique. In Geneva, students witnessed the dialogue between the Committee and State Party delegations, identified relevant developments and issues, and met regularly to strategize and conduct follow-up research.

"It was an honor to participate in the UN CAT Project," said Alexandra Arango, a JD/MA student at American University Washington College of Law. "The opportunity to visit Geneva, and witness the dialogues with State parties, truly brought to life the power of an international treaty. Learning went beyond the classroom and into the heart of live discussions on matters of international concern. It was fascinating to see Dean Grossman fulfill his duties as the Chairperson for the Committee and we felt honored to participate in such a dynamic project. After spending the semester learning about the issues and the use of the Convention Against Torture, it was exciting to see the delegations engage in dialogues regarding their efforts and shortcomings. This unique opportunity is one of the true gems of AUWCL."

The Project’s participants are selected during the spring semester. The following fall semester, students assist in preparing for the official UN CAT meetings and partake in a specialized seminar on the prohibition of torture under international law, taught by Grossman and de Laurentiis. The seminar involves delving into material concerning torture and human rights in pertinent countries, and drafting papers identifying potential compliance issues involving the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Upon the group's return to the law school, students continue to participate in initiatives and scholarship to raise awareness on campus and in the broader community about eradicating torture worldwide.

Inquiries about the UN CAT Project should be directed to Jennifer de Laurentiis.