Alice Edwards

Alice Edwards

Visiting Research Fellow

Dr Alice Jill Edwards is the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Oxford University’s Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law.

Prior to her appointment as Special Rapporteur, Dr Edwards was Head of the Secretariat of the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI), a unique inter-governmental collaboration to achieve universal ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2016-21). Previously, she was Chief of Section – Protection Policy and Legal Advice – at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva (2010-15), a key institutional position, following field assignments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Morocco. In the early days of her international relations career, she worked for Amnesty International in London and a development NGO in Mozambique. 

Dr Edwards has held permanent and adjunct academic appointments at world-leading universities including Oxford, London and Nottingham. She was previously a board member of the Geneva Academy.

Among Dr Edwards’ most renowned work is her breakthrough legal argument, which is now accepted as doctrine globally, that rape and sexual violence are forms of torture and persecution, enabling hundreds of thousands of victims to claim protection under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Additionally, her efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the late 1990s to secure appropriate long-term post-war solutions for female victims of war violence and their families have been adopted as UN operational practice and State policies. Significant portions of her fieldwork informed her influential book, Violence against Women under International Human Rights Law (Cambridge University Press, 2011), for which she was awarded the Audre Rapoport Prize for Scholarship on the Human Rights of Women.

Dr Edwards published empirical case studies into alternatives to administrative detention, and her legal arguments on the application of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) to immigration and refugee detention centers, have been utilized widely by the UN and international organizations, governments, courts and civil society. Her work to conceptualize and steer UNHCR’s multi-year Global Strategy – Beyond Detention, has been described as a “blueprint for human rights advocacy”. She is the author inter alia of UNHCR’s detention guidelines and the agency’s first guidelines on gender-related persecution; author of the background paper underpinning CEDAW General Recommendation No. 32; and has been on advisory committees for the revision of the Istanbul Protocol on the investigation and documentation of torture and the Mendez Principles on Effective Interviewing for Investigations and Evidence Gathering.

Counting over 50 publications and reports, Dr Edwards’ principal authored and co-edited books are: Human Security and Non-Citizens: Law, Policy and International Affairs (2010), Violence against Women under International Human Rights Law (2011), Nationality and Statelessness in International Law (2014), and In Flight from Conflict and Violence: UNHCR’s Consultations on Refugee Status and Other Forms of International Protection (2017).

Dr Edwards is a board member of leading academic journals including Migration Studies, the Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies, and the open-source Torture Journal and 

Dr Edwards is an Australian-qualified barrister and solicitor. She holds a PhD in Public International Law from the Australian National University, a Master of Laws in Public International Law awarded with Distinction from the University of Nottingham in the UK, a Diploma in International and Comparative Law from the René Cassin International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and a Bachelor of Laws (with Honours) and Arts from the University of Tasmania in Australia.