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Direct participation: Law school clinics and international humanitarian law


Law school clinics focused on international humanitarian law (IHL) enable students to participate directly in the development and application of IHL through concrete “real world” work – from training to research and fact-finding, litigation to high-level advocacy, and many spaces in between. These opportunities do far more than just contribute to these students' development as effective, reflective lawyers, certainly a key goal of any clinical environment. Clinical IHL work also matches clinical pedagogy with cutting-edge issues in armed conflict to deepen students' law school experiences and enables them to engage in the IHL goals of promotion, implementation and enforcement.

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1 This work is carried out by the Emory International Humanitarian Law Clinic:

2 See UCLA School of Law International Justice Clinic, Victim Participation and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: Involvement of the Cambodian-American Diaspora Community, June 2010, available at:

3 This work is carried out by the Emory IHL Clinic.

4 This work is carried out by the University of California, Irvine International Justice Clinic:

5 The Emory IHL Clinic worked with four different law firms and one NGO representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay between 2007 and 2011. Other clinics have also worked on Guantanamo issues. See, e.g., Carol Rosenberg, “FOIA Suit Reveals Guantánamo's ‘Indefinite Detainees’”, Miami Herald, 17 June 2013, available at:; Gautam Haithi, “Duke Law Students Work on Guantanamo Prisoner Defense”, The Duke Chronicle, 15 January 2014, available at:; Ami Dodson, “William & Mary Law School Students Assist the Pentagon in Prosecuting Guantanamo Detainees”, William & Mary Law School, 21 January 2010, available at:

6 This number and information about IHL in US law schools past and present is based on data found in ICRC reports on teaching IHL in US law schools. See, e.g., American University Washington College of Law and International Committee of the Red Cross, Teaching International Humanitarian Law at U.S. Law Schools, available at:

7 Geneva Conventions I–IV, Arts 47, 48, 127 and 144 respectively.

8 Frank Jerome, “A Plea for Lawyer-Schools”, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 56, 1947, p. 1306.

9 See Supreme Court of Israel, Beit Sourik Village Council v. The Government of Israel, HCJ 2056/04, 30 June 2004; International Court of Justice, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 9 July 2004, ICJ Reports 2004, p. 136.

10 Holland Laura G., “Invading the Ivory Tower: The History of Clinical Education at Yale Law School”, Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 49, 1999, p. 525 (referring to the work of Dennis Curtis and Stephen Wizner, pioneering clinicians at Yale Law School).

11 Hurwitz Deena R., “Lawyering for Justice and the Inevitability of International Human Rights Clinics”, Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 28, 2003, p. 524.

12 Ibid., pp. 532–533.

13 This fact led Deena Hurwitz to suggest that “[h]uman rights norms or principles can even be the underlying ‘client’”. Ibid., p. 533 (emphasis in original).

14 The war crimes projects at Case Western University Law School ( and American University Washington College of Law's War Crimes Research Office ( were early entrants into the field.

15 See, e.g., Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General, 25 January 2005, available at:; Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Juan Carlos Abella v. Argentina (La Tablada Case), Case No. 11137, 18 November 1997; European Court of Human Rights, Al-Skeini and Others v. The United Kingdom, Application No. 55721/07, 7 July 2011.

16 The US Supreme Court has rendered numerous opinions on detainee status and prosecution since 2004. In addition, two federal district courts have dismissed cases related to the killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi: Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, 727 F.Supp.2d (D.D.C. 2010); Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, DC District Court, 7 April 2014. For a synopsis of the status and results of all habeas cases, see Center for Constitutional Rights, Guantanamo Bay Habeas Decision Scorecard, available at:

17 This project produced the volume Blank Laurie R. and Noone Gregory P., Law of War Training: Resources for Military and Civilian Leaders, 2nd ed., US Institute of Peace, Washington, DC, 2013.

18 The ICRC customary IHL database is available at The database provides updated information based on and in support of the ICRC Customary Law Study: see Henckaerts Jean-Marie and Doswald-Beck Louise (eds), Customary International Humanitarian Law, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005.

19 A prior version of the International Justice Clinic existed at UCLA School of Law from 2008 to 2012. Where applicable, we specify whether the clinical work took place at UCLA or UC Irvine.

20 Article 1 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

21 See Rex Bossert, “UCI Law Students Help Attorney Argue First Case of New U.S. Supreme Court Term”, UC Irvine, 4 October 2012, available at:

22 D. R. Hurwitz, above note 11, p. 533.

23 See UCLA School of Law International Justice Clinic, The Road to Kampala: U.S. Participation in the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court, April 2010, available at:

24 See James G. Stewart, Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting the Pillage of Natural Resources, Open Society Foundations, September 2011, available at:

25 See, e.g., Blank Laurie R., “Rules of Engagement and Legal Frameworks for Multinational Counter-Piracy Operations”, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 46, 2013, pp. 397409. In addition, as part of the Emory IHL Clinic's work with the Public International Law and Policy Group's (PILPG) High Level Working Group on Piracy, students analyzed the law applicable to piracy and counter-piracy operations, among other topics.

26 A number of projects that highlight the skills discussed in this section involve confidentiality concerns and therefore are not described here.

27 The PILPG Piracy Working Group provides legal and policy advice to domestic, regional and international counter-piracy mechanisms, with the goal of helping to create effective responses to the growing piracy threat.

28 See David Kaye et al., The Council and the Court: Improving Security Council Support of the International Criminal Court, May 2013, available at:

29 Geneva Conventions I–IV, Arts 47, 48, 127 and 144 respectively.

30 See above note 17 and accompanying text.

31 Blank Laurie R. and Noone Gregory P., International Law and Armed Conflict: Fundamental Principles and Contemporary Challenges in the Law of War, Wolters Kluwer, New York, 2013, is the assigned reading for the Emory IHL Clinic.

32 See Kennedy David, Of War and Law, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2006.

33 See Human Rights Watch, UN: Start International Talks on “Killer Robots”, 13 November 2013, available at:

34 See, e.g., Dinstein Yoram, The Conduct of Hostilities under the Law of International Armed Conflict, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 17, explaining that IHL “takes a middle road, allowing belligerent States much leeway (in keeping with the demands of military necessity) and yet circumscribing their freedom of action (in the name of humanitarianism)”.

35 Protocol Additional I to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, 8 June 1977, 1125 UNTS 3 (AP I), Art. 51(5)(b).

36 See, e.g., AP I, Art. 35(2): “It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.”

37 Taylor Telford, “War Crimes”, in Wakin Malham M. (ed.), War, Morality, and the Military Profession, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, 1979, p. 429.

38 ICTY, Prosecutor v. Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač, Case No. IT-06-90-A, 16 November 2012, and Prosecutor v. Momčilo Perišić, Case No. IT-04-81-A, 28 February 2013.

39 As an example of the challenges posed by bringing the operational realities of armed conflict into the courtroom, see the report published by the Emory IHL Clinic on the discussions at an experts’ roundtable on the Prosecutor v. Ante Gotovina case before the ICTY: Emory IHL Clinic, Operational Law Experts Roundtable on the Gotovina Judgment: Military Operations, Battlefield Reality and the Judgment's Impact on Effective Implementation and Enforcement of International Humanitarian Law, 2012, available at:

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International Review of the Red Cross
  • ISSN: 1816-3831
  • EISSN: 1607-5889
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-the-red-cross
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