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Graduate Student Works as Public Policy Intern in DC

December 1, 2016

In the summer of 2016, through a partnership between the Humphrey School and the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), I was fortunate enough to serve as the public policy intern in CVT's Washington, DC, policy office. As a Master of Public Policy candidate and a minor in human rights student, this opportunity was an excellent way to fulfill my internship requirement for both programs and served as a way to get to know the work and policy efforts of this well-known and respected human rights organization even better. Growing up in Minneapolis and being interested in the field of human rights, I had heard about the great work that CVT is doing here in the Twin Cities as well as abroad through their programs in Africa and the Middle East. Learning more about this organization and its work in healing, training, advocacy, and research was a great personal and professional experience.

While interning at CVT's policy office, I worked on a few different projects. The first was assisting CVT in the coordination of its annual Eclipse Award presentation and event. The Eclipse Award is presented each year to an individual or organization that has played a crucial role in ending torture or in the treatment of torture survivors. In 2016, the award was presented to Juan Méndez, the current UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He received the Eclipse Award for his devotion to the preservation of human rights, the prevention of torture, and the rehabilitation of survivors. As part of the award presentation and event, I was able to attend a meeting of CVT's board of directors and a meeting of CVT's national advisory council, where I heard Juan Méndez speak on issues of torture today.

In addition to this coordination and logistics project, I worked on a few other research projects for the organization. The first was research regarding the rhetoric of torture and, more specifically, the gathering of statements and remarks made regarding torture and enhanced interrogation techniques by prominent individuals in the United States over the past year. I also completed research on case examples where perpetrators of torture were held accountable and charged with the crime of torture. Lastly, I completed research of the Right to Rehabilitation discussed in Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT) as well as the CAT Committee General Comment No. 3. The results of my research were compiled into reports and fact sheets for general use by the organization.

Overall, through this experience I was able to learn more about the policy and advocacy efforts of international human rights organizations such as CVT, as well as how important the work of CVT is within the field of torture awareness and prevention as well as survivor healing. I learned a great deal about the network of organizations that work on torture, refugee, and asylum issues, both in DC and in other places within the US and abroad, as well as their various niches and the ways in which they can effectively collaborate. Lastly, I was able to gain experience in research, my primary goal for the internship, as well as a greater understanding of my interests and the issues I care about within the field of human rights work. The experience was invaluable and I feel very fortunate that I was able to have the chance to work for such an excellent organization within the field of human rights work.

This article was written by Alexandra Sevett, Master of Public Policy student, Humphrey School of Public Affairs and interdisciplinary graduate minor in human rights.