Emory Report
August 6, 2007
Volume 59, Number 36

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August 6, 2007
Swift to lead new humanitarian law clinic devised by students

By Tim Hussey

Charles Swift, a prominent Navy lawyer, has been appointed visiting associate professor at Emory School of Law. Swift, who will join the faculty this fall, also will serve as acting director of Emory Law’s newly-established International Humanitarian Law Clinic, which will operate during the 2007–08 academic year.

Swift visited Emory during the spring semester to deliver a lecture on U.S. detention policies in Guantanamo Bay and their implications for the rule of law. Swift said during his visit that he was impressed by the quality of the faculty, the facilities and the students at Emory Law.

“What struck me most was Emory’s commitment to making a meaningful difference in both the development and daily practice of law,” Swift said. “When Emory expressed an interest in bringing that focus to the field of international humanitarian law, I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of the effort.”

Humanitarian law — also known as the law of conflict — governs the conduct of persons, states and nonstate entities during armed conflict. “International humanitarian law governs the use of military force, and as such, it represents the ground floor for the protection of human rights,” Swift said. “It is a unique body of law, largely developed in the aftermath of the First and Second World Wars.” Swift adds that although the Geneva Conventions (the principal IHL treaties) have been universally ratified, international humanitarian law is far from settled.

“Despite universal acceptance, the precepts and applicability of the conventions are increasingly challenged by the growing number of ethnic and religious conflicts around the globe,” Swift said. “When combined with the threat of international terrorism, these conflicts do not fit neatly within or adhere to the nation state model of armed conflict. The need for both scholars and practitioners devoted to the development and preservation of IHL has never been greater.”

The idea of beginning an IHL clinic evolved out of the work of six Emory law students this past academic year. The students were part of a course that included a workshop with attorneys at the Atlanta office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. The students helped with the pro bono cases representing Guantanamo detainees. Two students provided Arabic translation to assist attorneys working on the cases.

Through the new clinic, Emory Law students will have the opportunity to gain firsthand experience in the practice of humanitarian law by assisting organizations, law firms and military tribunals in prosecuting or defending individuals. The clinic also will seek to raise public awareness of past, present and future atrocities and ensure the protection of civilians and combatants in conflict regions around the world.

At Emory, Swift will teach international humanitarian law, criminal law, evidence and military law. He has extensive experience in the practice of military and international law during his service with the Department of Defense Office of Military Commissions.

His well-publicized representation of Salim Hamdan, the driver of Osama bin Laden, brought Swift to the U.S. Supreme Court in the precedent-setting case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. In its decision, the court ruled that the military commission being used to try Hamdan was illegal and that it lacked the protections required under the Geneva Conventions and U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Known for his dedication to preserving the rule of law during wartime, Swift has been honored by the American Civil Liberties Union with a Medal of Liberty and named by the National Law Journal as one of the most influential lawyers in America.

The addition of the International Humanitarian Law Clinic will build upon Emory’s expertise in the areas of international law, human rights and international relations previously established by The Carter Center, the World Law Institute and the Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Learning.