Dr. Keanu Sai recently returned from London after meeting with the Matrix Chambers who has joined his legal team in the international commission of inquiry proceedings stemming from the Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom (1999-2001) case held under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Matrix Chambers is one of the leading law firms in the United Kingdom and has represented countries before international courts and tribunals.
These proceedings were initiated on January 19, 2017 by Special Agreement between the Provisional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom and Lance Paul Larsen. Both Parties agreed to the rules provided under Part III—International Commissions of Inquiry (Articles 9-36) of the 1907 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. Once the Commission of Inquiry has been formed they will hold their hearings in the Hawaiian Kingdom. The formation of the Commission is moving forward. According to 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.”
Dr. Sai heads the Hawaiian Kingdom legal team as Agent, Professor Federico Lenzerini from the University of Siena Law School in Italy is the Deputy-Agent, and Ben Emmerson, QC, from the Matrix Chambers is Counsel. Mr. Emmerson is the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights. He was also elected by the United Nations General Assembly as one of the Judges for the International Criminal Court for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia. His expertise is in international criminal law and served as Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
The first allegations of war crimes committed in Hawai‘i, being unfair trial, unlawful confinement and pillaging, were made the subject of an arbitral dispute in Lance Larsen vs. Hawaiian Kingdom at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). Oral hearings were held at the PCA on December 7, 8, and 11, 2000. As an intergovernmental organization, the PCA must possess institutional jurisdiction before it can form ad hoc tribunals. The jurisdiction of the PCA is distinguished from the subject-matter jurisdiction of the ad hoc tribunal over the dispute between the parties.
Disputes capable of being accepted under the PCA’s institutional jurisdiction include disputes between: any two or more states; a state and an international organization, such as an agency of the United Nations; two or more international organizations; a state and a private party; and an international organization and a private entity. The PCA accepted the case as a dispute between a state and a private party, and acknowledged the Hawaiian Kingdom as a non-Contracting Power under Article 47 of the 1907 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. As stated on the PCA’s website:
“Lance Paul Larsen, a resident of Hawaii, brought a claim against the Hawaiian Kingdom by its Council of Regency (“Hawaiian Kingdom”) on the grounds that the Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom is in continual violation of: (a) its 1849 Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation with the United States of America, as well as the principles of international law laid down in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969 and (b) the principles of international comity, for allowing the unlawful imposition of American municipal laws over the claimant’s person within the territorial jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom.”
The Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom, as it stood on January 17 1893, was restored in 1995, in situ and not in exile. An acting Council of Regency comprised of four Ministers—Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance and the Attorney General—was established in accordance with the Hawaiian constitution and the doctrine of necessity to serve in the absence of the executive monarch. By virtue of this process a Provisional Government, comprised of officers de facto, was established. According to U.S. constitutional scholar Thomas Cooley,
“A provisional government is supposed to be a government de facto for the time being; a government that in some emergency is set up to preserve order; to continue the relations of the people it acts for with foreign nations until there shall be time and opportunity for the creation of a permanent government. It is not in general supposed to have authority beyond that of a mere temporary nature resulting from some great necessity, and its authority is limited to the necessity.”
Like other governments formed in exile during foreign occupations, the Hawaiian government did not receive its mandate from the Hawaiian citizenry, but rather by virtue of Hawaiian constitutional law, and therefore represents the Hawaiian state. The Provisional Government is not a new government, but rather a restoration of the Hawaiian Government that existed on January 17, 1893, before it was illegally seized and transformed into an insurgency by the United States. In 2001, Bederman and Hilbert reported in the American Journal of International Law,
“At the center of the PCA proceedings was … that the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and that the Hawaiian Council of Regency (representing the Hawaiian Kingdom) is legally responsible under international law for the protection of Hawaiian subjects, including the claimant. In other words, the Hawaiian Kingdom was legally obligated to protect Larsen from the United States’ ‘unlawful imposition [over him] of [its] municipal laws’ through its political subdivision, the State of Hawaii. As a result of this responsibility, Larsen submitted, the Hawaiian Council of Regency should be liable for any international law violations that the United States had committed against him.”
The Tribunal concluded that it did not possess subject matter jurisdiction in the case because of the indispensible third party rule. The Tribunal explained:
“It follows that the Tribunal cannot determine whether the respondent [the Hawaiian Kingdom] has failed to discharge its obligations towards the claimant [Larsen] without ruling on the legality of the acts of the United States of America. Yet that is precisely what the Monetary Gold principle precludes the Tribunal from doing. As the International Court of Justice explained in the East Timor case, ‘the Court could not rule on the lawfulness of the conduct of a State when its judgment would imply an evaluation of the lawfulness of the conduct of another State which is not a party to the case.’”
The Tribunal, however, acknowledged that the parties to the arbitration could pursue fact-finding. The Tribunal stated, “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. 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 noted “that the interstate fact-finding commissions so far held under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration have not confined themselves to pure questions of fact but have gone on, expressly or by clear implication, to deal with issues of responsibility for those facts.” The Tribunal pointed out that “Part III of each of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 provide for International Commissions of Inquiry.”
To date, there have only been five international commissions of inquiry held under the auspices of the PCA—the first in 1905, The Dogger Bank Case (Great Britain – Russia), and the last in 1962, Red Crusader’ Incident (Great Britain – Denmark). These commissions of inquiry formed under the 1907 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes serve in similar fashion to grand juries where they not only inquire into the facts of the case but also assign criminal or civil liability for another court or tribunal to prosecute.