Chris Jenks

Headshot of Chris Jenks, faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

Professor of Law

Full-time faculty


*** For academic year 2022-2023, Professor Jenks is serving as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the Department of State ***

Chris Jenks is a professor of law and teaches criminal law, evidence and the law of armed conflict.

Professor Jenks’ research interests are at the intersection of the law of armed conflict, accountability norms and emerging technology. He is the co-author of a criminal law textbook and two editions of a law of armed conflict textbook and has published book chapters with both Oxford and Cambridge University Presses. His articles have appeared in the law reviews and journals of Harvard, Berkeley, Georgetown, Stanford, & Washington & Lee and the International Review of the Red Cross. His blog posts have been featured on Lawfare, Just Security, and Opinio Juris. He has published opeds with Newsweek, Stars and Stripes, and USA Today. He has testified before the US Congress’ Helsinki Commission and presented to House and Senate Staffers on Capitol Hill, the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment, at the American Society of International Law, the Council on Foreign Relations, and at universities and institutes around the world.

Prior to joining the SMU faculty, Professor Jenks served for more than 20 years in the U.S. military, first as an infantry officer and later as a judge advocate and was detailed to both the human rights and refugees and the political/military affairs sections of the Office of the Legal Adviser at the Department of State and as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney on both the civil and criminal side at the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section nominated him for the John Marshall Award for interagency cooperation following his work as the lead prosecutor in the Army’s first counterterrorism trial involving a soldier who attempted to aid the al-Qaeda terrorist network. While working at the Department of State, he served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. In his last assignment, Professor Jenks served as the chief of the international law branch for the U.S. Army in the Pentagon, where he supervised the program by which foreign countries asserted criminal jurisdiction over U.S. service members and represented the Department of Defense at Status of Forces Agreement negotiations; he was also the legal adviser to the U.S. military observers group, which provides personnel to U.N. missions around the world.

Area of expertise

  • Autonomous Weapons
  • Military Law
  • National Security Law
  • Evidence
  • Criminal Law
  • International Law
  • Human Rights


B.S., United States Military Academy West Point
J.D., University of Arizona College of Law
LL.M., U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's School
LL.M., Georgetown Law
Ph.D Candidate, Melbourne University Law School


Law of Armed Conflict
Criminal Law
Criminal Clinic


CRIMINAL LAW: CONCEPTS, CRIMES, AND DEFENSES (Carolina Academic Press 2022) (with Geoffrey S. Corn & Kenneth Williams)

THE LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT: AN OPERATIONAL PERSPECTIVE, 2d ed. (Aspen Publishing 2019) (with Geoffrey S. Corn et al.)


Optimizing Classification of Intelligent Autonomous Systems, Center for Naval Analysis (Aug. 16, 2022) (co-authored) (distribution currently limited to U.S. Government Agencies)

The Gathering Swarm: The Path to Increasingly Autonomous Weapon Systems, 57 Jurimetrics 341 (2017)
SSRN | SMU Repository

A Matter of Policy:  United States Application of the Law of Armed Conflict, 46 Southwestern Law Review 337 (2017)
SSRN | SMU Repository

False Rubicons, Moral Panic & Conceptual Cul-De-Sacs: Critiquing and Reframing the Call to Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons, 44 Pepperdine Law Review 1 (2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Sexual Assault as a Law of War Violation & U.S. Service Members' Duty to Report, 69 Stanford Law Review Online 1 (2016) (with Jay Morse)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Debate: The Role of International Criminal Justice in Fostering Compliance with International Humanitarian Laws, 96 International Review of the Red Cross 775 (2015) (with Guido Acquaviva)

State Labs of Federalism and Law Enforcement "Drone" Use, 72 Washington & Lee Law Review 1389 (2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

A Military Justice Solution in Search of a Problem: A Response to Vladeck, 104 Georgetown Law Journal Online 29 (2015) (co-authored)
SSRN | SMU Repository             

Sentencing Complexities in National Security Cases, 27 Federal Sentencing Reporter 151 (2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Civil Liberties and the Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens, 2 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Federalist Edition 173 (2014)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Strange Bedfellows: How Expanding the Public Safety Exception to Miranda Benefits Counterterrorism Suspects, 61 Fordham Urban Law Journal 1 (2014) (with Geoffrey S. Corn)
SSRN | SMU Repository

United States Practice in International Humanitarian Law - National Report, Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011)

Belligerent Targeting and the Invalidity of a Least Harmful Means Rule, 89 International Law Studies Series 536 (2013) (with Geoffrey S. Corn, Laurie R. Blank, and Eric Talbot Jensen)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Introductory Note: Prosecutor v. Perišić, 52 International Legal Materials 1065 (2013)
SSRN | SMU Repository

International Decisions: Prosecutor v. Perišić, 107 American Journal of International Law 622 (2013)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Law as Shield, Law as Sword: The ICC’s Lubanga Decision, Child Soldiers and the Perverse Mutualism of Participation in Hostilities, 3 National Security and Armed Conflict Law Review 106 (2013)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Introductory Note: Şahin v. Turkey, 51 International Legal Materials 268 (2012)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Two Sides of the Combatant COIN: Untangling Direct Participation in Hostilities From Belligerent Status in Non-International Armed Conflicts, 33 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 313 (2011) (with Geoffrey S. Corn)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Indefinite Detention "Under the Laws of War", 22 Stanford Law & Policy Review 41 (2011) (with Eric Talbot Jensen)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Siren Song: The Implications of the Goldstone Report on International Humanitarian Law, 7 Publicist (2011) (with Geoffrey S. Corn)

All Human Rights Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others: The Extraordinary Rendition of A Terror Suspect In Italy, The NATO SOFA, and Human Rights 1 Harvard National Security Journal 171 (2010) (with Eric Talbot Jensen)
SSRN | SMU Repository

A Sense of Duty: The Illusory Criminal Jurisdiction of the U.S./Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, 11 San Diego International Law Journal 411 (2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Square Peg In A Round Hole: Government Contractor Battlefield Tort Liability and the Political Question Doctrine, 28 Berkeley Journal of International Law 178 (2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Introductory Note: The United States Supreme Court: Graham v. Florida and the Federal Court of Australia: Habib v. Australia, 49 International Legal Materials 1029 (2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Introductory Note: European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber: Varnava and Others v. Turkey, 49 International Legal Materials 358 (2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Law And Policy Implications of ‘Baited Ambushes’ Utilizing Enemy Dead And Wounded, Army Lawyer 91 (June 2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Law from Above: Unmanned Aerial Systems, Use of Force, and the Law of Armed Conflict, 85 North Dakota Law Review 649 (2009)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Notice Otherwise Given: Will In Absentia Trials at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Violate Human Rights?, 33 Fordham International Law Journal 57 (2009)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Human Rights and Military Decisions: Counterinsurgency and Trends in the Law of International Armed Conflict, 30 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 1367 (2009) (with Dan E. Stigall and Christopher L. Blakesley)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Book chapters

Animals as Weapons in THE PROTECTION OF ANIMALS IN WARTIME (Max Planck Institute, forthcoming 2022)

Autonomous Weapons in CHANGE IN THE INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ORDER (American Branch of the International Law Association, forthcoming 2022)

U.S. Military Prosecutions During Non-International Armed Conflict in FIGHTING WAR AS A CRIME AND CRIME AS WAR: ALTERNATIVE LEGAL FRAMEWORKS FOR ASYMMETRIC CONFLICT (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2022)

Specifically Vague: The Defensive Purpose of the DoD Law of War Manual, in THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE LAW OF WAR MANUAL: COMMENTARY AND CRITIQUE (Cambridge University Press 2018)

The Distraction of Full Autonomy & The Need To Refocus The CCW LAWS Discussion on Critical Functions, in LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS:  TECHNOLOGY, DEFINITIONS, ETHICS, LAW & SECURITY (Robin Geiss ed. 2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

A Rose by Any Other Name:  How the United States Charges Its Service Members for violating the Laws of Warin MILITARY JUSTICE IN THE MODERN AGE 365 (Cambridge University Press 2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Reimagining the Wheel: Detention – and Release – of Non-State Actors Under the Geneva Conventions, in DETENTION OF NON-STATE ACTORS ENGAGED IN HOSTILITIES: THE FUTURE LAW (Oxford University Press 2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Detention under the Law of Armed Conflict, in ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF THE LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT 301 (Routledge 2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

United Nations Peace Operations:  Creating Space for Peace, in U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS: LAW, POLICY, AND PRACTICE 691 (Oxford University Press 2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Self-Interest or Self-Inflicted? How the United States Charges Its Service Members for Violating the Laws of War, in MILITARY SELF-INTEREST IN ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CORE INTERNATIONAL CRIMES (Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher 2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Other publications

The Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group & Ukrainian Prosecutions of Russian POWs – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Articles of War Ukraine Symposium (Jun. 22, Jun. 24, Jun. 28 2022)
Part 1Part 2Part 3

The Legal Framework for Deprivation of Liberty in the Context of Screening Operations in Times of NIAC, Deprivation of Liberty and Armed Conflicts: exploring realities and remedies 40th Round Table on Current Issues of International Humanitarian Law Int'l Inst. Hum. Law (2019)

Comprehensive Justice and Accountability in Ukraine, Articles of War Ukraine Symposium (Apr. 15, 2022)
West Point Lieber Institute

The Efficacy of the Army’s Law of War Training Program, Articles of War (Oct. 14, 2020)
West Point Lieber Institute

Submission of Observations to the Appeals Chamber Pursuant to Rule 103, In the Case of the Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda, International Criminal Court (Sept. 18, 2020) (Court invited submission) (co-authored)

The Military Justice “Improvement” Act of 2020, CAAFlog (Jul. 15, 2020) (co-authored)




Inside SourcesLoophole Allows Safe Haven for War Crimes Violators on U.S. Soil (April 28, 2022)

Houston Chronicle, What Impeachment Article Really Accuses Trump of Doing on Jan. 6 – And Why (January 21, 2021)

The Hill, Why pretend senators can 'do impartial justice'? (January 20, 2021) 

Opinio JurisMotive Matters: The Meaning of Attack Under IHL & the Rome Statute (October 25, 2020) 

Inside SourcesSenator’s Ideas on Overhauling Military Justice Are Impractical (July 16, 2020)

The Hill, The Military Justice Solution in Search of a Problem (July 8, 2020) (with Geoffrey S. Corn)

Just SecurityOpen Letter From Former U.S. Military Commanders & Judge Advocates to the Committees on Armed Services of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, (June 29, 2020) (co-authored)

Just Security, A Solution in Search of a Problem: The Dangerous Invalidity of Divesting Military Commanders of Disposition Authority for Military Criminal Offenses, (June 29, 2020) (with Timothy C. MacDonnell and Geoffrey S. Corn)

Just SecurityWho Should Decide: Prosecutorial Discretion and Military Justice (June 29, 2020) (with Timothy C. MacDonnell and Geoffrey S. Corn)

Just Security,The President’s Inversion of the Government’s Ethical Conduct Standards, Right Before Americans’ Eyes, (May 26, 2020) 

LawfareSoleimani and the Tactical Execution of Strategic Self-Defense (January 24, 2020) 

Inside SourcesIn Guyger Case, Remember: Justice Is a Process, Not a Desired Outcome (October 30, 2019)

Just Security, Sticking it to Yourself: Preemptive Pardons for Battlefield Crimes Undercut Military Justice and Military Effectiveness (May 30, 2019)