Alyssa Bell ’10 won the first annual UVA Law Human Rights Student Scholars Writing Competition for “Torturous Intent: Refoulement of Haitian Nationals and U.S. Obligations Under the Convention Against Torture,” which will be published in the Spring 2011 issue of the NYU Review of Law and Social Change.

The competition was sponsored by the University of Virginia School of Law’s Human Rights Program and the Virginia Journal of International Law. In addition to receiving a $500 prize and an invitation to present her paper at a special Human Rights Student Scholars Workshop, Bell will be featured in an online symposium hosted by the journal.

In her paper, Bell describes the humanitarian crisis posed by the abusive, crowded, and unsanitary conditions found in Haitian prisons. She argues that the U.S., a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment (CAT), has defined its obligations related to the agreement in an overly narrow manner. This is particularly true, Bell says, regarding CAT’s prohibition of refoulement, or extradition of a person to a country where he or she is in danger of being tortured. The Board of Immigration Appeals and some U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have found a lack of specific intent to torture on the part of officials in Haitian prisons, which they say is necessary for CAT’s purposes, but Bell maintains that this is not a correct interpretation of the law.

Before matriculating at NYU Law as a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar, Bell worked in legal services and health care policy. After graduating with high honors from Swarthmore College with a B.A. in political science, she studied transnational migration on a Fulbright Scholarship in Spain. At the Law School, Bell was senior articles editor of the NYU Review of Law and Social Change. She will clerk for Judge Margaret Morrow of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in the 2010-11 term, and for Judge Richard Paez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2011-12.

Posted on July 12, 2010