Backstory of the Hawaiian Kingdom v. Biden Federal Lawsuit

Yesterday, Federal District Judge Leslie Kobayashi signed an Order officially ending the federal lawsuit Hawaiian Kingdom v. Biden. Attorney General Dexter Ka‘iama, representing the Hawaiian Kingdom by its Council of Regency, filed the notice of withdrawal on November 28, 2023, and yesterday was the Order. The federal lawsuit was initiated on May 20, 2021, and spanned for nineteen months. Here is the backstory of the federal lawsuit and its significance in obtaining evidence for the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation.

The objective for the filing of the lawsuit was to seek an order from the court to compel the United States, the State of Hawai‘i and the Counties to comply with international humanitarian law by administering the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom as an occupied State. The lawsuit also sought from the court an order to halt the imposition of American municipal laws because it is the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation, which is the unlawful imposition of legislative and administrative measures of the occupying State.

But before the federal court could rule on the complaint, the Hawaiian Kingdom requested the court to transform from an Article III Court into an Article II Occupation Court, since the court is operating within the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom and not within the territory of the United States. Article III Courts are federal courts that operate within the territory of the United States by judicial authority under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, whereas Article II Occupation Courts are federal courts that are established under the executive authority President under Article II of the U.S. Constitution in territories that are occupied by the United States military.  According to Professor Bederman, there are twelve instances in the history of the United States where Article II Occupation Courts were established during the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the Second World War.

An amicus brief or friend of the court brief was filed by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Lawyer Guild, and the Water Protector Legal Collective on October 6, 2021, to help explain to the court why it was obligated to transform into an Article II Occupation Court. The Court pondered on this issue for five months.

Then on March 3, 2022, District Judge Kobayashi issued an Order granting the dismissal of Sweden’s Honorary Consul Anders Nervell from the lawsuit. In the Order, and without providing any evidence that the Hawaiian Kingdom no longer exists under international law, she stated that she will not transform into an Article II Occupation Court. Instead, Judge Kobayashi justified her decision on prior court decisions that provided no evidence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s demise under the rules of international law. American court decisions, like American laws and administrative measures, constitute the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation. In other words, Judge Kobayashi knowingly committed the war crime.

The Hawaiian Kingdom attempted to address the error of Judge Kobayashi but to no avail. She laid the path for the court and the defendants to commit the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation and deprivation of fair and regular trial. The Hawaiian Kingdom would then use the proceedings to get evidence that the defendants and the court knowingly imposed American legislative and administrative measures. The elements for the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation are:

1. The perpetrator(s) imposed or applied legislative or administrative measures of the occupying power going beyond those required by what is necessary for military purposes of the occupation.

2. The perpetrator(s) was aware that the measures went beyond what was required for military purposes or the protection of fundamental human rights.

3. Their conduct took place in the context of and was associated with a military occupation

4. The perpetrators were aware of factual circumstance that established the existence of the military occupation.

The third and fourth elements refer to the mens rea or the criminal intent requirement. With respect to these last two elements:

1. There is no requirement for a legal evaluation by the perpetrator as to the existence of the military occupation.

2. In that context there is no requirement for awareness by the perpetrator of the facts that established the character of existence of the military occupation.

3. There is only a requirement for the awareness of the factual circumstances that established the existence of a military occupation.

Later that month, on March 22, 2022, H.E. Dr. David Keanu Sai, as Minister of Foreign Affairs ad interim, delivered an oral statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) bringing attention of the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty before the 47 countries that are member States of the HRC, which included the United States. Here is the message:

None of the 47 member States of the HRC protested, or objected to the oral statement of war crimes being committed in the Hawaiian Kingdom by the United States. This is important because under international law, according to Professor Antunes, acquiescence “concerns a consent tacitly conveyed by a State, unilaterally, through silence or inaction, in circumstances such that a response expressing disagreement or objection in relation to the conduct of another State would be called for.” In other words, silence means agreement.

This oral statement would have the effect of shifting accountability from the U.S. courts to the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI). The RCI’s mandate is “to investigate the consequences of the United States’ belligerent occupation, including with regard to international law, humanitarian law and human rights, and the allegations of war crimes committed in that context. The geographical scope and time span of the investigation will be sufficiently broad and be determined by the head of the Royal Commission.”

The RCI will focus on senior leadership of the United States, the State of Hawai‘i and the Counties. In mid-November of 2022, the RCI published its first war criminal reports of the senior leadership that were also named defendants in Hawaiian Kingdom v. Biden. The evidence of these perpetrators’ mens rea was by their own admissions in pleadings filed with the federal court.

There is no requirement for a “legal evaluation” or agreement that Hawai‘i is under a military occupation but rather only the awareness of the “factual circumstance that established the existence of the military occupation.” The amended complaint and the Hawaiian Kingdom’s own filed pleadings provided the factual circumstances of the American military occupation and neither the defendants nor the judges refuted or objected to these facts or provided any evidence that the Hawaiian Kingdom is no longer a sovereign and independent State under international law. Silence under international law means agreement.

Since the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) there has been major developments in the national criminal laws of the 123 States that signed the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute. Article I of the Rome Statute states:

An International Criminal Court (“the Court”) is hereby established. It shall be a permanent institution and shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concerns, as referred to in this Statute, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. The jurisdiction and functioning of the Court shall be governed by the provisions of this Statute.

Complementary jurisdiction means that the national courts of these States are the first to deal with international crimes. This is because States, not the ICC, already have national criminal justice systems in operation and are capable of dealing with perpetrators who commit international crimes. The ICC deals only with cases under limited circumstances and has been the cause of much criticism.

Usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation has not only victimized the civilian population in the Hawaiian Islands for over a century, but it has also victimized the civilians of other countries that have visited the islands since 1898 who were unlawfully subjected to American municipal laws and administrative measures. These include State of Hawai‘i sales tax on goods purchased in the islands but also taxes placed exclusively on tourists’ accommodations collected by the State of Hawai‘i and the Counties. The collection of these taxes from tourists constitute the war crime of pillaging.

The Counties have recently added 3% surcharges to the State of Hawai‘i’s 10.25% transient accommodations tax. Added with the State of Hawai‘i’s general excise tax of 4% in addition to the 0.5% County general excise tax surcharges, civilians who are visiting the islands will be paying a total of 17.75% to the occupying power. In addition, those civilians of foreign countries doing business in the Hawaiian Islands are also subjected to paying American duties on goods that are imported to the United States destined to Hawai‘i. These duty rates are collected by the United States according to the United States Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, and the Trade Agreements Act of 1979.

Under national criminal jurisdictions, States of these tourists would have authority to arrest and prosecute under passive personality jurisdiction. The passive personality principle provides countries with jurisdiction for crimes committed against their nationals while they were abroad in the Hawaiian Islands. This type of jurisdiction has more teeth as opposed to universal jurisdiction that allows States to prosecute war criminals who committed crimes outside of the territory of the State and where the perpetrator or victim is not a national of the State. The drawback on universal jurisdiction is that it can only be triggered when the perpetrator is in the territory of the prosecuting State. Passive personality jurisdiction, on the other hand, provides for immediate action to apply for extradition arrest warrants to be issued by the prosecuting State where the perpetrators remain outside of the prosecuting State’s territory.

The RCI will focus its attention on the various national criminal jurisdictions in order to seek arrests warrants for the subjects of the RCI’s war criminal reports because war crimes cannot continue to take place in Hawai‘i with impunity. War crimes have no statute of limitations and prosecution can follow a perpetrator until his elderly years.

The Far Reach of the War Crime of Usurpation of Sovereignty Being Committed in the Hawaiian Islands Since 1898

Usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation was listed as a war crime in a 1919 report by the Commission on Responsibilities of the Paris Peace Conference that was established by the Allied and Associated Powers at war with Germany and its allies in the First World War. The Commission was especially concerned with acts perpetrated in occupied territories against non-combatants and civilians.

Usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation is the imposition of the laws and administrative measures of the Occupying State over the territory of the Occupied State. Usurpation, according to Black’s Law dictionary, is “The unlawful encroachment or assumption of the use of property, power or authority which belongs to another.”

The Commission did not indicate the source of this crime in treaty law but it would appear to be Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Regulations, which states, “The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.” Article 43 is the codification of customary international law that existed on January 17, 1893, when the United States unlawfully overthrew the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom and began its prolonged belligerent occupation.

In the annex of its 1919 report, the Commission charged that in Poland the German and Austrian forces had “prevented the populations from organising themselves to maintain order and public security” and that they had “[a]ided the Bolshevist hordes that invaded the territories.” It said that in Romania the German authorities had instituted German civil courts to try disputes between subjects of the Central Powers or between a subject of these powers and a Romanian, a neutral, or subjects of Germany’s enemies. In Serbia, the Bulgarian authorities had “[p]roclaimed that the Serbian State no longer existed, and that Serbian territory had become Bulgarian.” It listed several other war crimes committed by Bulgaria in occupied Serbia: “Serbian law, courts and administration ousted;” “Taxes collected under Bulgarian fiscal regime;” “Serbian currency suppressed;” “Public property removed or destroyed, including books, archives and MSS (e.g., from the National Library, the University Library, Serbian Legation at Sofia, French Consulate at Uskub);” “Prohibited sending Serbian Red Cross to occupied Serbia.” It also charged that in Serbia the German and Austrian authorities had committed several war crimes: “The Austrians suspended many Serbian laws and substituted their own, especially in penal matters, in procedure, judicial organisation, etc.;” “Museums belonging to the State (e.g., Belgrade, Detchani) were emptied and the contents taken to Vienna.”

The crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation was referred to by Judge Blair of the American Military Commission in a separate opinion in the Justice Case, holding that “This rule is incident to military occupation and was clearly intended to protect the inhabitants of any occupied territory against the unnecessary exercise of sovereignty by a military occupant.” Australia, Netherlands and China enacted laws making usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation a war crime. In the case of Australia, the Parliament enacted the Australian War Crimes Act in 1945 that included the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation.

The war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation has not been included in more recent codifications of war crimes, casting some doubt on its status as a crime under customary international law. And there do not appear to have been any prosecutions for that crime by international criminal tribunals of late. However, the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation is a war crime under “particular” customary international law. According to the International Law Commission, “A rule of particular customary international law, whether regional, local or other, is a rule of customary international law that applies only among a limited number of States.” In the 1919 report of the Commission, the United States, as a member of the commission, did not contest the listing of the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation, but rather only disagreed, inter alia, with the Commission’s position on the means of prosecuting heads of state for the listed war crimes by conduct of omission.

The Hawaiian Kingdom Royal Commission Inquiry views usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation as a war crime under “particular” customary international law and binding upon the Allied and Associated Powers of the First World War—United States of America, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan, principal Allied Powers and Associated Powers that include Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Thailand, Czech Republic, formerly known as Czechoslovakia, and Uruguay. Great Britain, as an empire at the time, included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa who also fought in the First World War. Therefore, as an international crime under particular customary international law, these countries are obligated to prosecute this war crime in their courts.

In the Hawaiian situation, usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation serves as a source for the commission of other war crimes within the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom, which includes the war crimes of compulsory enlistment, denationalization, pillage, destruction of property, deprivation of fair and regular trial, deporting civilians of the occupied territory, and transferring populations into an occupied territory. The reasoning for the prohibition of imposing extraterritorial prescriptions or measures of the occupying State is addressed by Professor Eyal Benvenisti:

The occupant may not surpass its limits under international law through extra­territorial prescriptions emanating from its national institutions: the legislature, government, and courts. The reason for this rule is, of course, the functional symmetry, with respect to the occupied territory, among the various lawmak­ing authorities of the occupying state. Without this symmetry, Article 43 could become meaningless as a constraint upon the occupant, since the occupation administration would then choose to operate through extraterritorial prescription of its national institutions.

Usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation came before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (“PCA”) in 1999. In Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom, the Permanent Court of Arbitration convened an arbitral tribunal to resolve a dispute where Larsen, the claimant, alleged that the Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom, by its Council of Regency, the respondent, was liable “for allowing the unlawful imposition of American municipal laws over the claimant’s person within the territorial jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom.” The PCA accepted the case as a dispute between a “State” and a “private party” and acknowledged the Hawaiian Kingdom to be a non-Contracting State in accordance with Article 47 of the 1907 Hague Convention. The PCA annual reports of 2000 through 2011 specifically states that the Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom proceedings were done “Pursuant to article 47 of the 1907 Convention.” According to Bederman and Hilbert of the American Journal of International Law:

At the center of the PCA proceeding was the argument that … the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist and that the 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 Hawai‘i [and its County of Hawai‘i].

In the situation of Hawai‘i, the usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation would appear to have been total since the beginning of the twentieth century. This is an ongoing crime where the criminal act would consist of the imposition of legislation or administrative measures by the occupying power that goes beyond what is required necessary for military purposes of the occupation. Since 1898, when the United States Congress enacted an American municipal law purporting to have annexed the Hawaiian Islands, it began to impose its legislation and administrative measures to the present in violation of the laws of occupation.

Given that this is essentially a crime involving government action or policy or the action or policies of an occupying State’s proxies such as the State of Hawai‘i and its Counties, a perpetrator who participated in the act would be required to do so intentionally and with knowledge that the act went beyond what was required for military purposes or the protection of fundamental human rights.

Usurpation of sovereignty has not only victimized the civilian population in the Hawaiian Islands for over a century, but it has also victimized the civilians of other countries that have visited the islands since 1898 who were unlawfully subjected to American municipal laws and administrative measures. These include State of Hawai‘i sales tax on goods purchased in the islands but also taxes placed exclusively on tourists’ accommodations collected by the State of Hawai‘i and the Counties.

The Counties have recently added 3% surcharges to the State of Hawai‘i’s 10.25% transient accommodations tax. Added with the State of Hawai‘i’s general excise tax of 4% in addition to the 0.5% County general excise tax surcharges, civilians who are visiting the islands will be paying a total of 17.75% to the occupying power. In addition, those civilians of foreign countries doing business in the Hawaiian Islands are also subjected to paying American duties on goods that are imported to the United States destined to Hawai‘i. These duty rates are collected by the United States according to the United States Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, and the Trade Agreements Act of 1979.

The far reach of the victims of war crimes committed in the Hawaiian Islands includes civilians throughout the world in various countries.

At the United Nations World Summit in 2005, the Responsibility to Protect was unanimously adopted. The principle of the Responsibility to Protect has three pillars: (1) every State has the Responsibility to Protect its populations from four mass atrocity crimes—genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing; (2) the wider international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist individual States in meeting that responsibility; and (3) if a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action, in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN Charter. In 2009, the General Assembly reaffirmed the three pillars of State’s Responsibility to Protect their populations from war crimes and crimes against humanity under resolution A/63/308, and in 2021, the UN General Assembly passed resolution A/75/277 on “The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

Rule 158 of the International Committee of the Red Cross Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law specifies that “States must investigate war crimes allegedly committed by their nationals or armed forces, or on their territory, and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects. They must also investigate other war crimes over which they have jurisdiction and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects.” This “rule that States must investigate war crimes and prosecute the suspects is set forth in numerous military manuals, with respect to grave breaches, but also more broadly with respect to war crimes in general.”

Determined to hold to account individuals who have committed war crimes and human rights violations throughout the territorial jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Council of Regency, by Proclamation on April 17, 2019, established a Royal Commission of Inquiry in similar fashion to the United States proposal of establishing a Commission of Inquiry after the First World War “to consider generally the relative culpability of the authors of the war and also the question of their culpability as to the violations of the laws and customs of war committed during its course.”

In mid-November of 2022, the Royal Commission of Inquiry published War Criminal Reports no. 22-0002, 22-0002-1, 22-0003, 22-0003-1, 22-0004, 22-0004-1, 22-0005, 22-0005-1, 22-0007, and 22-0007-1 that provides the evidence that U.S. President Joseph Biden, Jr., Vice-President Kamala Harris, Admiral John Aquilino, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Senator Charles Schumer, Representative Nancy Pelosi, State of Hawai‘i Governor David Ige, Commissioner Ty Nohara, Tax Director Isaac Choy, Hawai‘i County Mayor Mitchell Roth, Hawai‘i County Council Chairwoman Maile David, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, Maui County Council Chairwoman Alice Lee, County of Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami, and Kaua‘i County Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro have committed the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation. Accomplices to this war crime include: U.S. Attorneys Brian Boynton, Anthony Coppolino, and Michael Gerardi; State of Hawai‘i Attorneys Holly T. Shikada and Amanda J. Weston; County of Hawai‘i Attorneys Elizabeth Strance, Mark Disher and Dakota Frenz; County of Maui Attorneys Moana Lutey, Caleb Rowe and Iwalani Mountcastle; and County of Kaua‘i Attorneys Matthew Bracken and Mark Bradbury.

The reports have documented the necessary evidence that satisfies the elements of the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation: (1) the perpetrators imposed imposed or applied legislative or administrative measures of the occupying power going beyond those required by what is necessary for military purposes of the occupation, which is the actus reus or the criminal act; (2) the perpetrators were aware that the measures went beyond what was required for military purposes or the protection of fundamental human rights, which is the mens rea or the guilty mind; (3) their conduct took place in the context of and was associated with a military occupation; and (4) the perpetrators were aware of factual circumstances that established the existence of the military occupation.

With regard to the last two elements listed for the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation: (1) there is no requirement for a legal evaluation by the perpetrator as to the existence of an armed conflict or its character as international or non-international; (2) in that context there is no requirement for awareness by the perpetrator of the facts that established the character of the conflict as international or non-international; and (3) there is only a requirement for the awareness of the factual circumstance that established the existence of an armed conflict that is implicit in the terms “took place in the context of and was associated with.”

According to Professor Dietrich Schindler, “the existence of an [international] armed conflict within the meaning of Article 2 common to the Geneva Conventions can always be assumed when parts of the armed forces of two States clash with each other. … Any kind of use of arms between two States brings the Conventions into effect.” Dr. Stuart Casey-Maslen, author of The War Report 2012, further concludes that an international armed conflict “also exists whenever one state uses any form of armed force against another state, irrespective of whether the latter state fights back.”

The Hawaiian Kingdom has been in an international armed conflict with the United States since January 16, 1893, when U.S. troops invaded the city of Honolulu. The Hawaiian Kingdom has been under military occupation since January 17, 1893, when Queen Lili‘uokalani conditionally surrendered to the United States forces. For a comprehensive legal narrative and analysis of this international armed conflict download the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s ebook The Royal Commission of Inquiry: Investigating War Crimes and Human Rights Violations Committed in the Hawaiian Kingdom (2020).

The 123 countries who are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court have primary responsibility to prosecute war criminals under complementary and universal jurisdiction. This type of jurisdiction gives State Parties the first responsibility before the International Criminal Court can initiate proceedings and authority to prosecute individuals for international crimes to include the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation without regard to the place the war crime was committed or the nationality of the perpetrator. With the exception of the United States, China, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Thailand, the Allied Powers and Associated Powers of the First World War are State Parties to the Rome Statute.

In this situation where the citizenry of these countries have become victims of the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation, they can seek extradition warrants in their national courts in order for their governments to prosecute these war criminals under the passive personality principle. The passive personality principle provides countries with jurisdiction for crimes committed against their nationals while they were abroad in the Hawaiian Islands. This has the potential of opening the floodgate to lawsuits from all over the world.

The commission of the war crime of usurpation of sovereignty during military occupation can stop when the United States, the State of Hawai‘i and the Counties begin to comply with Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Regulations and administer the laws of the Occupied State—the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Prosecution of War Crimes by Foreign Governments—New Zealand

There is some confusion as to who or what is responsible for prosecuting war criminals, in particular, war crimes committed against the civilian population of an occupied State. The simple answer are governments who signed and ratified the 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. This responsibility is further amplified when governments signed and ratified the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

One such country is New Zealand. Professor Treasa Dunworth wrote a revealing law article in the New Zealand Yearbook of International Law titled “From Rhetoric to Reality: Prosecuting War Criminals in New Zealand” in 2008. According to Professor Dunworth, in order to pursue the prosecution of war criminals by New Zealand courts there are two statutory options, the Geneva Conventions Act of 1958 and the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act of 2000 (ICC Act). New Zealand signed the Rome Statute on October 7, 1998, and deposited its instrument of ratification with the Secretary General of the United Nations on September 7, 2000.

Prosecution of war criminals must be evidence based and not politically driven. The Geneva Conventions Act and the ICC Act allows New Zealand to prosecute any person irrespective of their nationality and where the war crime was committed.

Under the Rome Statute, the national courts of contracting States have the responsibility to deal with cases of international crimes first called complementary jurisdiction to the ICC. The ICC deals only with cases under limited circumstances. Article 1 of the Rome Statute provides that the ICC “shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this State, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions.”

According to the Handbook on Complementarity, there are at least four reasons for the complementary system: 1) it protects the accused if they have been prosecuted before national courts; 2) it respects national sovereignty in the exercise of criminal jurisdiction; 3) it might promote greater efficiency because the ICC cannot deal with all cases of serious crimes; and 4) it puts the onus on States to do their duty under international and national law to investigate and prosecute alleged serious crimes (that is, it is not just a matter of efficiency but a matter of law, policy, and morality).

Under New Zealand law there are two ways to get a war criminal arrested, which is separate from the prosecution, which can only take place with the consent of the Attorney-General. The most common way to get an arrest warrant is for the Attorney-General to pursue a public prosecution by seeking an arrest warrant, or by a process for a private prosecution for war crimes where a person, whether a citizen of New Zealand or not, acts as an “Informant” in order to file an application of information before a District Court. This right of a private person to file an application comes under section 345(2) of the Crimes Act of 1961. This section was repealed and replaced by section 15 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 2011 where “Any person may commence a proceeding.”

On November 27, 2006, a New Zealand District Court in Auckland issued an arrest warrant for Lieutenant General Mosche Ya’alon, former Israeli Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force. Ya’alon approved the order of bombing a Palestinian terrorist in Gaza that also killed civilians, which is a war crime. On behalf of the family killed, Janfrie Wakim filed information with the District Court in Auckland. Wakim alleged that Ya’alon was guilty of war crimes by his participation in the decision to carry out the assassination of Salah Shehadeh. Wakim provided the District Court with compelling evidence of the war crimes.

The war crimes alleged were a breach of section 3(1) of the Geneva Conventions Act. Wakim also invoked Section 11 of the ICC Act, alleging breaches of Article 8(2) of the Rome Statute being grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions including wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to the body or health (Article 8(2)(a)(iii)); extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly (Article 8(2)(a)(iv)); intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities (Article 8(2)(b)(i) and Article 8(2)(e)(i)); and finally, intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated (Article 8(2)(b)(iv)).

Wakim filed on a Friday November 24 and the application was heard on Monday November 27. District Court Judge Deobhakta was satisfied that the Informant made a compelling case for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Ya’alon. On Tuesday November 28, after receiving Wakim’s request for consent of the Attorney-General to prosecute as required under both war crime statutes, the Attorney-General filed a warrant to put a hold on the proceedings. The District Court cancelled the arrest warrants and the proceedings eventually came to a close.

The Attorney-General justified his actions by stating in a press release that “there was insufficient evidence to support any possible prosecution.” The Attorney-General later stated, “It is the law in New Zealand that before any criminal proceedings can be commenced charging a person with war crimes the person brining the charges must obtain consent of the Attorney-General. This provision is compatible with New Zealand’s relevant international obligations.

Section 3(5) of the Geneva Conventions Act states, “No one shall be prosecuted for an offense against this section without the leave of the Attorney-General.” And section 13 of the ICC Act states, “Proceedings for an offense against section 9 [genocide] or section 10 [crimes against humanity] or section 11 [war crimes] may not be instituted in any New Zealand court without the consent of the Attorney-General.”

However, section 13 of the ICC Act also states, “a person charged with an offence against section 9 or section 10 or section 11 may be arrested, or a warrant for his or her arrest may be issued and executed, and the person may be remanded in custody or on bail, even though the consent of the Attorney-General to the institution of a prosecution for the offence has not been obtained, but no further proceedings can be taken until that consent has been obtained.”

A plain reading of section 13 of the ICC Act explicitly allowed for the arrest warrant of Ya’alon “even though the consent of the Attorney-General…has not been obtained.” While there is no exception to the consent provision in the Geneva Conventions Act, it must be read in light of section 25(2)(a) of the Prosecution of Offences Act of 1985, which provides that any such consent provision of the Attorney-General “shall not prevent the arrest without warrant, or the issue of execution of a warrant for the arrest, of person for any offence, or the remand in custody or bail of a person charged with any offense.”

The action taken by the Attorney-General in the Ya’alon case was political and not legal. For the Attorney-General to state “there was insufficient evidence to support any possible prosecution” undermines District Court Judge Deobhakta’s decision that there was enough evidence, which was the basis for the arrest warrants in the first place. Ya’alon entered and departed New Zealand territory without being arrested.

This episode was not a failure of the law but a failure to comply with the letter of the law. And more importantly, Ya’alon is still a war criminal because there is no statute of limitation for war crimes. In other words, Ya’alon may still find himself in a New Zealand courtroom. Professor Dunworth ends her article with, “New Zealand could make good on its rhetorical claim to being a champion of a true international criminal justice system.”

Individuals found to be guilty of war crimes by the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s War Criminal Reports could well find themselves before a New Zealand Court for prosecution. There are 121 other countries, like New Zealand, that are contracting States to the Rome Statute and have similar provisions in their laws for the prosecution of war criminals under complementary jurisdiction to the ICC. Most of these countries have extradition treaties and if their citizens or subjects were the victims of war crimes committed outside of their home country, like the Hawaiian Kingdom, their governments could also seek extradition warrants when the war criminals travel to an extraditing country.