Under international law, war does not only apply to belligerent States, but also applies to neutral States whose territories have been invaded and occupied by one of the belligerents in its course of war with the other belligerent. According to Oppenheim’s International Law (7th ed.), p. 685, “hostilities against a neutral [State] on the part of either belligerent are acts of war, and not mere violations of neutrality. Thus the German attack on Belgium in 1914, to enable German troops to march through Belgian territory and attack France, created war between Germany and Belgium.” While Belgium was occupied by Germany from 1914-1918, Belgium was, for the purposes of international law, also at war with Germany during the occupation.
By the 1839 Treaty of London, Great Britain, Austria, France, the German Confederation, Russia, and the Netherlands recognized Belgium as an independent and perpetual neutral State. Under international law, a neutral State cannot wage war but is limited to the defense of its territory. During World War I, Belgium’s neutrality was violated by Germany in its war against France.
When “neutral territory becomes the region and theatre of war, and is militarily occupied by a belligerent, the occupant does not possess such a wide range of rights with regard to the occupied country and its inhabitants as he possesses in occupied enemy territory,” states Oppenheim, p. 241. “He can indeed resort to all measures which are necessary for the safety of his forces; but he cannot exact contributions or appropriate cash, funds, and realizable securities which are the property of the neutral State.”
Like Belgium, the Hawaiian Kingdom was a neutral State explicitly recognized in its treaties with Spain in 1863 and the Kingdom of Sweden and Norway in 1852. Article 26 of the Hawaiian-Spanish treaty, states “All vessels bearing the flag of Spain, shall, in time of war, receive every possible protection, short of active hostility, within the ports and waters of the Hawaiian Islands, and Her Majesty the Queen of Spain engages to respect, in time of war the neutrality of the Hawaiian Islands.”
On April 25, 1898, war broke out between the United States and Spain, and fighting between the armed forces of both belligerents took place in the Spanish possessions of Guam and the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean, and Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Ocean. The next month, United States naval convoys entered Honolulu harbor to re-coal their ships on their way to fighting in the Philippines. This action taken by the United States naval forces was a direct violation of Hawai‘i’s neutrality under the Hawaiian-Spanish Treaty, which prompted a formal protest by the Spanish Vice-Consul H. Renjes June 1, 1898.
The Spanish protest declared, “In my capacity as Vice Consul for Spain, I have the honor today to enter a formal protest with the Hawaiian Government against the constant violations of Neutrality in this harbor, while actual war exists between Spain and the United States of America.” The last battle was fought on August 13, 1898 when U.S. forces captured the city of Manila, and the war officially ended on December 10, 1898 when a treaty was signed in Paris.
As a result of United States intervention in 1893 and the subsequent creation of a puppet government, calling itself the provisional government and later renaming itself the Republic of Hawai‘i, the United States took complete advantage of its own creation in the islands during the Spanish-American War.
“Puppet governments are organs of the occupant and, as such form a part of his legal order,” explains Krystyna Marek in Identity and Continuity of States in Public International Law (2nd ed.), p. 114. “The agreements concluded by them with the occupant are not genuine international agreements, however correct in form; failing a genuine contracting party, such agreements are merely decrees of the occupant disguised as agreements which the occupant in fact concludes with himself. Their measures and laws are those of the occupant.”
According T.A. Bailey, whose article “The United States and Hawai‘i During the Spanish-American War” was published in The American Historical Review (1931), “The position of the United States was all the more reprehensible in that she was compelling a weak nation to violate international law that had to a large degree been formulated by her own stand on the Alabama claims. Furthermore, in line with the precedent established by the Geneva award, Hawaii would be liable for every cent of damage caused by her dereliction as a neutral, and for the United States to force her into this position was cowardly and ungrateful. At the end of the war, Spain or cooperating power would doubtless occupy Hawaii, indefinitely if not permanently, to insure payment of damages, with the consequent jeopardizing of the defenses of the Pacific Coast.”
Bailey’s reference to the Alabama claims was an international arbitration case between the United States and Great Britain in the city Geneva that centered on Britain’s violation of neutrality by building war ships for the Confederate States in America’s Civil War. One of these ships was called the C.S.S. Alabama. The arbitral tribunal concluded the British violated the international law of neutrality and had to compensate the United States $15.5 million dollars for all damages inflicted by the ships built in Great Britain.
“Although the [Hague] conventions expressly apply only to the occupation of hostile or enemy territory, …it is usually held that they apply also to the forceful occupation of neutral territory,” says Gerhard von Glahn in The Occupation of Enemy Territory, p. 12. “Thus provisions of the applicable articles should have been mandatory in their application to the German occupation of Denmark, Norway, and other countries neutral at the time of their invasion by the forces of the Third Reich.”
In 1893, President Grover Cleveland reported to the Congress ““on the 16th day of January, 1893, between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, a detachment of marines from the United States steamer Boston, with two pieces of artillery, landed at Honolulu. The men, upwards of 160 in all, were supplied with double cartridge belts filled with ammunition and with haversacks and canteens, and were accompanied by a hospital corps with stretchers and medical supplies. This military demonstration upon the soil of Honolulu was of itself an act of war, unless made either with the consent of the Government of Hawaii or for the bona fide purpose of protecting the imperiled lives and property of citizens of the United States. But there is no pretense of any such consent on the part of the Government of the Queen, which at that time was undisputed and was both the de facto and the de jure government.”
Failing to carry out the executive agreement of December 18, 1893 to reinstate the Hawaiian Kingdom government negotiated between U.S. Ambassador Albert Willis and Queen Lili‘uokalani, the United States allowed their puppet government calling itself the provisional government to remain in existence. On July 4, 1894, the name was changed to the Republic of Hawai‘i, then renamed to the Territory of Hawai‘i on April 30, 1900, and then the State of Hawai‘i on March 18, 1959.
Since the admitted “act of war” was committed by the United States on January 16, 1893, the Hawaiian Kingdom has been in a state of war with the United States now going on for 121 years. This is the longest state of war between States in the history of international law since the Thirty Years’ War that established international law as we know it today through the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia.
Despite the prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, international law provides for its continued existence, especially in light of its legal status as a neutral State, and the failure of the United States to comply with international law, the international laws of occupation and international humanitarian laws. The Proclamation of the acting Council of Regency provides the legal foundation for the United States’ compliance to international law in light of 121 years of violation.