Dr Alice Edwards is the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. She was appointed in July 2022 and took up her duties on 1 August the same year. She is first woman to be appointed to the role in its nearly four-decade history.  

Prior to that appointment, from 2016-21, Dr. Edwards headed the Secretariat of the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI), a global cross-regional diplomatic initiative of the Governments of Chile, Denmark, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco with the aspiration to achieve universal ratification and effective implementation of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT). In that capacity, she provided strategic and policy advice to the CTI Core States and oversaw CTI’s annual programme of activities to support governments to ratify and implement UNCAT.  

From 2010-15, Dr. Edwards was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Principal Legal Coordinator and Chief of Section - Protection Policy and Legal Advice, based in Geneva, where she was responsible inter alia for shaping international refugee law standards, positions and strategic direction, overseeing UNHCR’s engagement with the UN human rights system, and initiating and leading the implementation of UNHCR’s Global Strategy – Beyond Detention, a blueprint for action to support governments to end the routine detention of asylum-seekers through constructive dialogue, technical advice and capacity building. She led the legal activities for both the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the 1951 Refugee Convention, bringing together States, practitioners and the academy to discuss key legal developments and challenges, and designed the series of Guidelines on International Protection that followed those processes (having written or overseen 12 of guidelines). Of note, she drafted the first set of guidelines on gender-related persecution and the current guidelines on detention and alternatives to detention.   

Alice is presently adjunct faculty on the University of Oxford’s Masters in Human Rights Law, with prior academic appointments at Oxford (2009-10) and  Nottingham (2006-9) and is widely published with over 50 books, articles and reports. Her scholarship has been cited by courts and tribunals in different regions, and has influenced policy changes in international law.  She sits on the board of a number of leading journals including Migration Studies and the open-source Torture Journal. Principal authored and co-edited books include Violence against Women under International Human Rights Law (CUP 2011, pb 2013),  Nationality and Statelessness under International Law (CUP 2014), and In Flight from Conflict and Violence: UNHCR’s Consultations on Refugee Status and Other Forms of International Protection (CUP  2017). Her work on violence against women was awarded the Audre Rappoport Prize for the Human Rights of Women in 2008. 

She has secured ~$10 million USD in research and project funding. An Australian qualified barrister and solicitor, she has led precedent-setting cases in her personal and professional capacities in international and national courts on questions of human rights, women’s rights, asylum-migration, and statelessness. She has worked in diverse countries as Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, Switzerland and the UK (the latter with Amnesty International).  

She holds degrees in law and political science from the University of Tasmania (UTAS), an LLM (Distinction/1st class) in Public International Law from the University of Nottingham, a Diploma in International and Comparative Law from the Fondation Rene-Cassin, Strasbourg, and PhD in Public International Law from the Australian National University. In 2017, she was awarded the UTAS Foundation Graduate Award, recognising significant contributions to society and demonstrated exceptional professional achievement. She speaks English, French and intermediate Portuguese.  

In addition to the Senior Research Associateship at the Refugee Law Initiative, University of London, she is a Fellow at Nottingham's Human Rights Law Centre and the McLauglin School of Public Policy, University of York, Canada, and former honorary Research Associate at Oxford's Refugee Studies Centre and St Anne's College, Oxford and former board member of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.