International Commission of Inquiry Proceedings Initiated at The Hague

On January 19, 2017, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government and Lance Paul Larsen entered into a Special Agreement to form a Fact-finding Commission of Inquiry under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), The Hague, Netherlands. The International Bureau of the PCA was notified by joint letter, from the Hawaiian Government and Mr. Larsen, on January 24, 2017 to initiate the proceedings.

This move toward fact-finding is in direct response to the recommendation of the Tribunal in paragraphs 13.1-13.3 of the Award (2001) in Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom, 119 Int’l L. Rep. 566, 597 (2001). The Tribunal stated, “In addition to its role as a facilitator of international arbitration and conciliation, the Permanent Court of Arbitration has various procedures for fact-finding, both as between States and otherwise.” The Tribunal further stated it could “reconstitute itself as a fact-finding commission, [but a] new compromis or agreement would…have been required.”

As pointed out by the Tribunal, “Part III of each of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 provide for International Commissions of Inquiry,” and that the “PCA has also adopted Optional Rules for Fact-finding Commissions of Inquiry.” In other words, the Tribunal provided two options to form a fact-finding commission, the first under the 1907 Hague Convention, and, second, the Optional Rules. Both the Hawaiian Kingdom and Larsen agreed to the rules provided under Part III—International Commissions of Inquiry (Articles 9-36), 1907 Hague Convention, I. The International Bureau facilitates both options.

After the issuance of the Award, the parties did request for the Tribunal to be reconstituted as a Fact-finding Commission of Inquiry but due to the projected costs at the time it was later withdrawn. During the arbitration, the parties had to contend with the prospect of who would bear the burden of the costs for fact-finding since Mr. Larsen, as claimant in the arbitration, bore the costs, which amounted in excess of $150,000.00. This move, however, did not preclude the parties from entering into an agreement at a later date. Under Article VI of the Special Agreement (January 19, 2017) it was agreed that the Hawaiian Kingdom would bear the burden of costs for the fact-finding.

Prior to facilitating the establishment of the Tribunal in Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom, the PCA had to assure that it possessed institutional jurisdiction, which requires one of the parties to be a State. From the record of the arbitral proceedings there are two instances where the PCA acknowledged the Hawaiian Kingdom as a State for administrative purposes. The first instance is in the PCA Case Repository containing Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom, wherein the Respondent—Hawaiian Kingdom is identified as a “State” and the Claimant—Lance Paul Larsen as a “Private entity.” The second instance is in Annex 2—Cases conducted under the auspices of the PCA or with the cooperation of the International Bureau, PCA Annual Report 2011. In the PCA’s 2011 Annual Report, the Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom arbitration was listed as the thirty-third case that came under the auspices of the PCA pursuant to “article 47 of the 1907 Convention.” Article 47 provides, “The jurisdiction of the Permanent Court may, within the conditions laid down in the regulations, be extended to…non-Contracting Powers.”

According to Article III of the Special Agreement, “The Commission is requested to determine: First, what is the function and role of the Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom in accordance with the basic norm and framework of international humanitarian law; and, Second, what are the duties and obligations of the Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom toward Lance Paul Larsen, and, by extension, toward all Hawaiian subjects domiciled in Hawaiian territory and abroad in accordance with the basic norm and framework of international humanitarian law.”

The formation of the Fact-finding Commission of Inquiry is not a new proceeding for the PCA to determine its institutional jurisdiction, but rather, a continuation of the proceedings already held under the jurisdiction of the PCA that moves from a dispute under arbitration to a situation under fact-finding.

4th Annual Hawaiian Language Competition and Concert Jan. 14

Pūnana Leo o Kona presents the 4th annual ʻAha Aloha ʻŌlelo on January 14, 2017 from 9:00am to 4:00pm at Makaʻeo (Old Airport Pavilion).  ʻAha Aloha ʻŌlelo is an event for the entire ʻohana featuring live entertainment by Danny Carvalho, Kalani Peʻa, Duncan Kamakana Osorio, Jon Osorio and Jamaica Osorio.  The event will also feature vendors, Hawaiian food and a Keikiland with bouncers, games and a petting zoo.  A Hawaiian language competition with well over 100 competitors from schools such as Pūnana Leo o Kona, ʻEhunuikaimalino, Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu and Pūnana Leo o Waiʻanae from Waiʻanae, Oʻahu will also be held.  Tickets to the event are $10 or $12 at the door and keiki 10 and under are free.

The theme of this yearʻs Hawaiian language competition is built around a speech given on September 6, 1896 at a Hālāwai Makaʻāinana at Palace Square in Honolulu by James Keauiluna Kaulia, calling on the people of Hawaiʻi to “kūʻē loa aku i ka hoʻohui ʻia o Hawaiʻi me ʻAmelika a hiki i ke aloha ʻāina hope loa!”  Kaulia was the President of the Hui Aloha ʻĀina, or Hawaiian Patriotic League when the question of annexing Hawaiʻi to the United States was before the U.S. government.  Kaulia and others, including David Kalauokalani, Emma Nāwahī and Kuaihelani Campbell, led a petition drive protesting the annexation of Hawaiʻi to the United States of America.  They sent out delegates to each island and all of its communities and through their collective efforts, over 37,000 signatures were gathered during a time in Hawaiian history where there were only about 40,000 Native Hawaiians alive.

After the gathering of the signatures, Kaulia and Kalauokalani, along with John Richardson and William Auld, traveled to Washington D.C. to deliver the anti-annexation petitions.   Upon arriving to D.C., it was known that there were already 58 votes in U.S Congress for annexation, with only two more votes being needed to ratify the treaty presented to congress by the unlawful Republic of Hawaiʻi under Sanford Dole.  The Commission was able to meet with many different Senators and Congressmen and they were able to have the annexation petitions read to the Senate and formally accepted.  By the time the Commission left Washington D.C. to return back to Hawaiʻi, there were only 46 votes in the Senate for annexation, far below the 60 votes required to ratify the treaty.  The treaty of annexation was dead.  Hawaiʻi remained an independent country, as it has been since November 28, 1843, albeit under an illegal, unlawful and self-proclaimed government.

“These petitions show us the potential of our Lāhui.  Our kūpuna were actively engaged in the political issues surrounding them and their country.  We are in a point of history where we face very similar issues,” said Kahoʻokahi Kanuha, the organizer of the Hawaiian language competition.  “I am hopeful that this competition and event will remind us of the inherited kuleana we have to this ʻāina.  These petitions show us who we were, who we are and most importantly who we still must be.”


For more information, e ʻoluʻolu, contact:
Kahoʻokahi Kanuha
Facebook: ʻAha Aloha ʻŌlelo
Instagram: @alohaolelo
Twitter: @alohaolelo

The Smoking Gun! No Question on Illegality of the U.S. Overthrow of the Hawaiian Government in 1893

In 2016, Duke University Press published Tom Coffman’s Nation Within: The History of the American Occupation of Hawai‘i. While this book has been in circulation since 1998, it is the first time that an academic publisher has put its name to the book. The goal of Duke University Press is “to contribute boldly to the international community of scholarship.” “By insisting on thorough peer review procedures in combination with careful editorial judgment, the Press performs an intellectual gatekeeping function, ensuring that only scholarship of the highest quality receives the imprimatur of the University.”

Dr. Keanu Sai, a political scientist, whose doctoral research covered the American occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom and its continued existence today as an independent State, was asked by the Hawaiian Journal of History to write a book review of Coffman’s Nation Within for its first publication in 2017. In his review, Dr. Sai reveals the “smoking gun” that was brought to his attention by Dr. Ron Williams of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.


In Nation Within: The History of the American Occupation of Hawai‘i, Tom Coffman exhibits a radical shift by historians in interpreting political events post-1893. When Coffman first published his book in 1998, his title reflected a common misunderstanding of annexation. But in 2009, he revised the title by replacing the word Annexation with the word Occupation. Coffman admitted he made this change because of international law (p. xvi). By shifting the interpretive lens to international law, Coffman not only changed the view to occupation, but would also change the view of the government’s overthrow in 1893. While the book lacks any explanation of applicable international laws, he does an excellent job of providing an easy reading of facts for international law to interpret.

In international law, there is a fundamental rule that diplomats have a duty to not intervene in the internal affairs of the sovereign State they are accredited to. Every sovereign State has a right “to establish, alter, or abolish, its own municipal constitution [and] no foreign State can interfere with the exercise of this right” (Halleck’s International Law, 3rd ed., p. 94). For an ambassador, a violation of this rule would have grave consequences. An offended State could proceed “against an ambassador as a public enemy…if justice should be refused by his own sovereign” (Wheaton’s International Law, 8th ed., p. 301).

John Stevens, the American ambassador to the Hawaiian Kingdom arrived in the islands in the summer of 1889. As Coffman notes, Stevens was already fixated with annexation when he “wrote that the ‘golden hour’ for resolving the future status of Hawai‘i was at hand,” (p. 114) and began to collude with Lorrin Thurston (p. 116). Thurston was not an American citizen but rather a third-generation Hawaiian subject. Stevens’ opportunity to intervene and seek annexation would occur after Lili‘uokalani “attempted to promulgate a new constitution, [which] was the event Thurston and Stevens had been waiting for” (p. 120).

On January 16, Stevens orders the landing of U.S. troops and “tells Thurston that if the annexationists control three buildings—‘Iolani Palace, Ali‘iolani Hale, and the Archives—he will announce American recognition of the new government” (p. 121). The following day, “Stevens tells the queen’s cabinet that he will protect the annexationists if they are attacked or arrested by government police” (Ibid.). However, unbeknownst to Stevens, the insurgents only took over Ali‘iolani Hale, which housed “clerks of the Kingdom” (p. 125). One of the insurgents, Samuel Damon, knowing Stevens’ recognition was premature, sought to convince Lili‘uokalani that her resistance was futile because the United States had already recognized the new government, and that she should order Marshal Charles Wilson, head of the government police, to give up the police station. Wilson was planning an assault on the government building to apprehend the insurgents for treason in spite of the presence of U.S. troops.

International law clearly interprets these events as intervention and Stevens to be a “public enemy” of the Hawaiian Kingdom. This was the same conclusion reached by President Grover Cleveland, whose investigation was an indictment of Stevens and the commander of the USS Boston, Captain Gilbert Wiltse. “The lawful Government of Hawai‘i was overthrown without the drawing of a sword or the firing of a shot,” Cleveland said, “by a process every step of which, it may be safely asserted, is directly traceable to and dependent for its success upon the agency of the United States acting through its diplomatic and naval representatives” (p. 144). Because of diplomatic immunity, the United States, as the sending State, would be obliged to prosecute Stevens and Wiltse for treason under American law.

On December 20, 1893, a resolution of the U.S. Senate called for a separate investigation to be conducted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Chaired by Senator John Morgan, a vocal annexationist, the purpose of the Senate investigation was to repudiate Cleveland’s investigation and to vindicate Stevens and Wiltse of criminal liability. One week later, the Committee held its first day of hearings in Washington, DC. Stevens appeared before the Committee and fielded questions under oath on January 20, 1894. When asked by the Chairman if his recognition of the provisional government was for the “purpose of dethroning the Queen,” he responded, “Not the slightest—absolute noninterference was my purpose” (Report from the Committee on Foreign Relations— Appendix, p. 550).

After the hearings, two reports were submitted on February 26, 1894—a Committee Report and a Minority Report. The committee of eight senators was split down the middle, with Morgan giving the majority vote for the Committee Report. Half of the committee members did not believe Stevens’ testimony of his non-intervention. The Minority Report stated, “We can not concur…in so much of the foregoing report as exonerates the minister of the United States, Mr. Stevens, from active officious and unbecoming participation in the events which led to the revolution” (Ibid., p. xxxv).

The Senate Committee’s investigation could find no direct evidence that would disprove Stevens’ sworn testimony, but in 2016, the “smoking gun” was found that would prove Stevens was a public enemy of the Hawaiian Kingdom, committed perjury before the Committee, and would no doubt have been prosecuted under the 1790 federal statute of treason. The Hawaiian Mission Houses Archives is processing a collection of documents given to them by a descendent of William O. Smith. Smith was an insurgent that served as the attorney general for Sanford Dole, so-called president of the provisional government.

The “smoking gun” is a note to Dole signed by Stevens marked “private” and written under the letterhead of the “United States Legation” in Honolulu and dated January 17, 1893. Stevens writes, “Judge Dole: I would advise not to make known of my recognition of the de facto Provisional Government until said Government is in possession of the police station.”

As a political scientist, Coffman’s book is a welcomed addition to arresting revisionist history.