HAWAII ISLAND – The Counsel and Advocate representing the Hawaiian Kingdom in a recently initiated international fact finding proceeding spoke to a small audience at a Puna home on Friday evening.
Dr. Federico Lenzerini, Professor of International law from the University of Siena Law Department in Italy, talked about the complexities of a new special agreement to form a Commission of Inquiry under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. Lenzerini spoke in the garage of Kale Gumapac’s Hawaiian Paradise Park home.
Dr. Lenzerini, working alongside Dr. Keanu Sai – a well known political scientist and lecturer at the University of Hawai‘i – said the proceeding picks up where the Larsen v the Hawaiian Kingdom case left off in 2001.
On January 19, 2017, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government and Lance Paul Larsen entered into a Special Agreement to form a Fact-finding Commission that would delve into the alleged occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States. Dr. Sai has been working as agent for the Kingdom in the international arbitration.
Over the past week, Lenzerini and Sai have been making the rounds in Hawaii, building awareness of the fact-finding inquiry by filming TV interviews and even making a large presentation at the Kamehameha School Kapalama Campus on January 30.
The Larsen dispute began in 1999. Larsen, a Hawaiian subject, alleged that the Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom is in “continual violation of its 1849 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the United States of America”, as well as “the principles of international comity” by allowing “the unlawful imposition of American municipal laws … within the territorial jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom.”
Documents say Larsen “served an illegally imposed jail sentence resulting directly from the continued unlawful imposition and enforcement of American municipal laws within the Hawaiian Kingdom.”
The dispute was taken up by a Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Both parties were seeking a ruling from the tribunal that would “decide and determine the territorial dominion of the Hawaiian Kingdom under all applicable international principles, rules and practices.”
Dr. Keanu Sai represented the Hawaiian Kingdom as its agent in the proceeding. Dr. Sai maintained the party responsible for the violation of the Larsen’s rights, as a Hawaiian subject, was the United States Government. Both Larsen and the Kingdom agreed “the primary cause of these injuries is the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States of America.”
The United States was not a party to the agreement to arbitrate, and did not participate in the proceeding.
In its Award, the Tribunal determined that “there is no dispute between the parties capable of submission to arbitration” and that, “the Tribunal is precluded from the consideration of the issues raised by the parties by reason of the fact that the United States of America is not a party to the proceedings and has not consented to them.”
Although the Tribunal’s award did not make a determination involving the occupation, both Dr. Sai and Dr. Lenzerini say the Kingdom was acknowledged as a State for administrative purposes by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The proceeding also opened the door to a fact finding inquiry.
“At one stage of the proceedings the question was raised whether some of the issues which the parties wished to present might not be dealt with by way of a fact-finding process,” the Tribunal’s award stated.
“In addition to its role as a facilitator of international arbitration and conciliation,” the Award document states, “the Permanent Court of Arbitration has various procedures for fact finding, both as between States and otherwise.”
The Tribunal noted a new special agreement would be needed between Larsen and the Kingdom before fact-finding could be initiated.
The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 provide for International Commissions of Inquiry. However, the costs of the fact-finding process – which amounted in excess of $150,000, participants say, to be bore by the claimant, Mr. Larsen – delayed the action.
In the Special Agreement reached this January, it was decided that the Hawaiian Kingdom will bear the burden of costs for the fact-finding. On January 24, 2017 the International Bureau of the PCA was notified by joint letter to initiate the proceedings. A $10,000 advance deposit has already been made towards the costs.
Lenzerini, with his wife and child by his side, stopped by Gumapac’s house en route to a visit to see the volcanic activity down by Kalapana. Gumapac has worked closely with Dr. Sai on separate matters involving the U.S. occupation which have also been presented at the international level.
The Commission of Inquiry is not a Tribunal, Lenzerini told those assembled in Puna. There will be no judgement, only an evaluation of the facts under the perspective of international humanitarian law.
It is important that the determinations be made public, Lenzerini said, “so it will be possible to spread the knowledge of the history and of the truth of the Hawaiian kingdom within the international community,” since Larson and the Kingdom have agreed to make the findings public.
Next will be the nomination of an appointing authority who will be tasked with nominating the three-member Commission of Inquiry.
The appointing authority must be impartial, competent, and have “a very definite idea about who can be the best personalities to serve as members of the commission,” Lenzerini said.
These rules of international humanitarian law apply to military occupations even where there has been no resistance, as happened in Hawaii at the end of the 19th century.
The Commission of Inquiry will have the task to give an opinion on this point, according to Lenzerini: What is the position of the Hawaiian Kingdom under international humanitarian law, and what are the duties of the Hawaiian Kingdom towards its citizens, “first of all Mr. Larsen, then its citizens living here in Hawaii or abroad, and even aliens. Aliens who come here and are subject to the laws enforced in this land.”
Several rules of international humanitarian law are applicable, Lenzerini says, including pillaging, the obligation to administer the laws of the occupied country, deprivation of public property, and violation of a fair trial, among others.
Lenzerini cautioned those in attendance that “sometimes it is quite hard to guarantee the effectiveness of the rules” of international law.
“There are no avenues to claim respect,” Lenzerini said. Especially when – in this case, the United States – an “indispensable third party” is not a part to the agreement for international arbitration and cannot be bound by a commission’s rulings.
Lenzerini says that a fact finding is different, however. Although there will be no determination, Lenzerini believes the inquiry will provide a forum for the stories of Hawaii’s people to be known by the international community. He expects there could be an opportunity to provide testimony and evidence, depending on the will of the Commission that is formed.
These things usually last for quite a long time. “Talking about years,” Lenzerini said.
According to its website, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is “an intergovernmental organization established by the 1899 Hague Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. The PCA has 121 Member States.” The PCA is headquartered at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands, and “facilitates arbitration, conciliation, fact-finding, and other dispute resolution proceedings among various combinations of States, State entities, intergovernmental organizations, and private parties.”