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From the 2024 Oliver W. Koonz Human Rights Prize Judges 

Professors Claudia Koonz, Ingrid Bianca Byerly, James Chappel, and Ellen McLarney 


The Duke Human Rights Center is proud to award two prizes this year for outstanding essays in the field of human rights. Alexandra Bernstein-Naples’s essay, “Reserving the Right to Deflection: A Quantitative Analysis of States Logging Reservations to the Genocide Convention,” is a rigorous, sophisticated, and quantitative analysis about a supremely important issue: the ways that states have expressed reservations to the Genocide Convention, sparing them the possibility of prosecution in the International Court of Justice. In an era of continued state repression, and headline-grabbing genocide investigations by the ICJ, this topic could not be more timely. 

Madeleine McLean provided a more local study of race, journalism, and human rights in North Carolina in her essay, “Beyond the Headlines: How the North Carolina Black Press Advocated for Racial Equality in the Asylum Setting.” She studied the divergent interpretations that white and Black newspapers gave to a local mental health institution, showing that Black newspapers adopted a more critical perspective on the matter, tying their journalism to broader issues of human and civil rights. This focus on the press is crucial, too, given the many attacks on press freedom that we see around the world today. Together, these two essays are an urgent reminder of what human rights scholarship can be, and how it can draw our attention to crucial issues at both the global and the local scale.