United Nations Committee Against Torture Project Celebrates 10 Years

The United Nations Committee against Torture (UN CAT) Project will hold its inaugural reunion on Jan. 27 celebrating the Project’s first decade—2004-2014.

Co-founded by Dean Claudio Grossman and Project Coordinator Jennifer de Laurentiis '92, the UN CAT Project is a one-of-a-kind experiential learning opportunity for upper-level students to deepen their knowledge of international human rights law and experience firsthand the UN CAT proceedings in Geneva, Switzerland. With the generous support of the Kovler Foundation since 2009, approximately 100 students have participated in the Project since inception.

“The reunion presents an important occasion for professional networking for our students and alumni, and for the exchange of ideas on how to further strengthen our efforts to help eradicate torture,” said Claudio Grossman, dean of American University Washington College of Law and chair of the UN Committee against Torture.  “The Project has also made tremendous contributions to the development of human rights law that would not have been possible without the project’s leadership and research.”

One significant contribution of the Project includes the adoption of the Committee’s General Comment 3, a seminal development in international law on redress and rehabilitation for victims of torture and other ill-treatment.

Student and faculty participants over the years have also examined state party reports and strengthened the Committee’s body of work on, for instance: the rejection of discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender; the absolute prohibition of torture and of the use of statements extracted under torture; and the vital role of due process and other legal safeguards including access to lawyers and doctors.

Involving AUWCL faculty in the Project has also led to innovative developments such as a simulation of a Committee proceeding.  Many faculty and senior administrators have attended the Project’s field component and activities in Geneva including Professors Susan Bennett, Janie Chuang, Bob Dinerstein, Darren Hutchinson, Cynthia Jones, Binny Miller, Juan Mendez, Elliott Milstein, Fernanda Nicola, Diane Orentlicher, Jamin Raskin, Jayesh Rathod, Jenny Roberts, Diego Rodriguez-Pinzon, Brenda Smith, Anthony Varona, and Steve Vladeck, and the Director of Global Opportunites Theresa Kaiser. AU Provost Scott Bass attended the Project’s fall 2014 alumni dinner in Geneva. 

The Project has also built important relationships with alumni that have led to the creation of externships and professional mentoring.  UN CAT Project alumni work around the country and the world, helping improve the lives of fellow human beings and building remarkable, principled careers across all sectors – government, civil society, private practice, multinational organizations, academia, tribunals and courts, etc.  Alumni currently hold positions at, for instance:

  • ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Accountability Counsel
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Red Cross
  • Asylum Access
  • Ayuda
  • Capitol Hill
  • Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
  • Children’s Law Center
  • Fulbright Fellows
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
  • Law firms including DLA Piper, Hughes Hubbard, White & Case, and Clearly Gottlieb, where they also engage in pro bono work
  • Legal Action Worldwide
  • NGOs including ones they founded and/or direct such as Justice and Empowerment Initiatives in Nigeria, the Children in Prison Project – International Justice Consulting in Mexico, and Cambodia’s Children Education Fund
  • Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Anti-Terrorism and Human Rights
  • People’s Law Office
  • Presidential Management Fellows (PMF)
  • Public Defenders Offices in Miami, Colorado, etc.
  • Torture Survivors Project of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Courts
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Department of State
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • University of Miami School of Law
  • Urban Justice Center
  • World Bank

“We look forward to meeting with our UN CAT Project alumni and faculty, to learning more about their careers and opportunity for our students, and to exchanging ideas for enhancing efforts to reject and eradicate torture and other ill-treatment,” said Dean Grossman.