Chris Jenks, an assistant professor in SMU’s Dedman School of Law, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholars Grant to spend six months in Australia researching how emerging technologies impact accountability in armed conflict.
Jenks, who joined the Dedman Law faculty in 2012, teaches and writes on the law of armed conflict and criminal justice. He also is director of the law school’s Criminal Justice Clinic. Beginning in January 2015, he will work in Melbourne at the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (APCML), a collaborative initiative between the Australian Department of Defense and Melbourne Law School.
At the APCML, Jenks will work closely with Bruce Oswald and Tim McCormack, two of the world’s foremost experts on international humanitarian law. McCormack, the founding director of the APCML, also serves as Special Adviser on International Humanitarian Law to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
“The APCML is the only entity in the world applying a systematic and holistic approach to technology and the law of armed conflict,” Jenks says. “It’s the best place in the world to study the subject. I’m very excited by and for this opportunity.”
Jenks explains his Fulbright research: “Right now if there’s an air strike and civilians are killed, the law of armed conflict and state practice provide a framework through which we can determine when someone is criminally liable. But when the air strike is autonomous, or it is a cyber attack, who’s to blame? The commander? The software designer? A civilian programmer who may have entered the wrong line of code two years prior? We need to think more about and address such issues before they inevitably arise,” he says.
An internationally respected expert on the law of armed conflict, Jenks is co-author of a law of armed conflict textbook and co-editor of a forthcoming war crimes casebook. He served as a peer reviewer of The Tallinn Manual on the international law applicable to cyber warfare and the U.S. Army’s field manual on the law of land warfare. He has published articles on drones, child soldiers, extraordinary rendition, law of war-based detention, targeting and government contractors.
Jenks came to SMU following a 20-year career as an officer in the U.S. Army. In 2003, he was the lead prosecutor in the Army’s first counterterrorism case. In 2004, he deployed to Mosul, Iraq and served as chief legal advisor on investigations and as prosecutor for crimes against the civilian population, detainee abuse and friendly-fire incidents. Rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel, Jenks worked as the deputy chief of the U.S. Army’s litigation division, as an attorney adviser at the Department of State and the United Nations, and as chief of the International Law Branch of the Office of The Judge Advocate General in the Pentagon.
Jenks has received the Valorous Unit Award, the Bronze Star, and the Expert Infantryman and Parachutist Badges. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, the University of Arizona College of Law, the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, and Georgetown University Law School.
Written by Denise Gee