The Mission of the Lexington Principles Project
"The mission of the Lexington Principles Project is to engage the international community to clarify and strengthen transnational norms pertaining to due process of law and the treatment of persons detained on suspicion of terrorist activities, and to foster a common approach to these matters, in keeping with the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission on this subject."
The 9/11 Commission's Recommendation
At the time of the Project's creation, there were already many groups around the world working to define new standards for detainee treatment. These initiatives had been undertaken by governmental and non-governmental organizations, scholarly and practice-oriented groups, lawyers and non-lawyers. With all of the existing efforts in this area, our first goal was to find an area that was not already being addressed by other groups. We found that area within the pages of the 9/11 Commission Report.
In 2004, the 9/11 Commission made a recommendation with respect to detainee treatment standards. Specifically, the Commission recommended that:
"(t)he United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists. New principles might draw upon Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict. That article was specifically designed for those cases in which the usual laws of war did not apply. Its minimum standards are generally accepted throughout the world as customary international law."
Immediately after the publication of the 9-11 Commission Report the White House responded with a list of ways in which it had already been complying with many of the Commission's recommendations. With respect to the abovementioned recommendation, the U.S. State Department responded by stating:
"The United States has worked closely with its coalition partners regarding the detention and treatment of captured terrorists, and is open to exploring whether a "common coalition approach" is feasible and consistent with our national security."
Seventeen months after the issuance of the 9/11 Commission's Report, the 10-member bipartisan Commission met again to report on the government's progress toward the achievement of each of its recommendations. The Commission graded the government's efforts toward implementing each of the 41 recommendations made in the 9/11 Commission Report. With respect to implementation of the recommendation regarding "Coalition Standards for Terrorist Detention" the Commission gave the government an F.
Specifically, the Commission stated:
"The U.S. has not engaged in a common coalition approach to developing standards for detention and prosecution of captured terrorists. Indeed, U.S. treatment of detainees has elicited broad criticism, and makes it harder to build the necessary alliances to cooperate effectively with partners in a global war on terror."
The Membership of the Lexington Principles Project immediately recognized the role we could play in beginning to implement the 9/11 Commission's recommendation by initiating a scholarly dialogue between military practitioners and legal experts and identifying the prevailing international norms in this area. Our goal from the beginning was to codify these fundamental normative standards into a body of principles that might help guide future jurisprudential developments.
*The Lexington Principles Project is an independent international project on the rights of detainees hosted and supported by the School of Law and Washington and Lee University Institute for Honor. Its members hail from many different disciplines and institutions.