Hawai‘i and the Namibia Exception

According to international law, the United States Federal government and the United States’ State of Hawai‘i government operating within the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom are illegal regimes. Article 43 of the Hague Convention, IV, mandates that the occupying State, the United States, to administer the laws of the occupied State, the Hawaiian Kingdom. According to Professor Marco Sassoli, Article 43 of the Hague Regulations and Peace Operations in the Twenty-first Century, p. 5, “Article 43 does not confer on the occupying power any sovereignty over the occupied territory. The occupant may therefore not extend its own legislation over the occupied territory nor act as a sovereign legislator. It must, as a matter of principle, respect the laws in force in the occupied territory at the beginning of the occupation.”

These illegal regimes are and have been administering United States law and not Hawaiian law in an attempt to conceal the prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom. According to Dr. Yaël Ronen, Status of Settlers Implanted by Illegal Regimes under International Law (2008), p. 2, “Illegal regimes often transfer of their own populations or populations loyal to them in the territory, and subsequently grant these populations residence or nationality in the territory. This is done in order to change the demographic composition of the territory under dispute and thereby solidify the regime.”

When another country’s government is operating within the territory of another country without title or sovereignty, every official action taken by that regime is illegal and void except for its registration of births, marriages and deaths. This is called the “Namibia exception,” which is a decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1971 called the Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970).

In 1966, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 2145 (XXI) that terminated South Africa’s administration of Namibia, formerly known as South West Africa, a former German colony. This resulted in Namibia coming under the administration of the United Nations, but South Africa refused to withdraw from Namibian territory and consequently the situation transformed into an illegal occupation. As a former German colony, Namibia became a mandate territory under the administration of South Africa after the close of the First World War.

Addressing the legal consequences arising for South Africa’s refusal to leave Namibia, the ICJ stated that by “occupying the Territory without title, South Africa incurs international responsibilities arising from a continuing violation of an international obligation,” and that all countries, whether a member of the United Nations or not were “under an obligation to recognize the illegality and invalidity of South Africa’s continued presence in Namibia and to refrain from lending any support or any form of assistance to South Africa with reference to its occupation of Namibia.” The ICJ, however, clarified that “non-recognition should not result in depriving the people of Namibia of any advantages derived from international cooperation.

The conduct of an illegal regime during occupation is limited and confined to the international laws of occupation and to the principle of ex injuria ius non oritur—where unlawful acts cannot be the source of lawful rights. According to Ronen, p. 39, “Opposite the principle of ex injuria jus non oritur operates the principle ex factis ius oritur. It mandates that acts of the illegal regime may have legal consequences despite the illegality and status of the regime that performed them.” Ronen explains, “In other words, the general invalidity of domestic acts carried out under an illegal regime is qualified where such invalidity would act to the detriment of the inhabitants of the territory. This is the Namibia exception.” The ICJ in the Namibia case explained, “the principle ex injuria jus non oritur dictates that acts which are contrary to international law cannot become a source of legal acts for the wrongdoer… To grant recognition to illegal acts or situation will tend to perpetuate it and be benefitial to the state which has acted illegally.”

The focus of the Namibia exception is to protect the interests of the nationals of the occupied State and not to entrench the authority of an illegal regime. The validity of any other official acts of an illegal regime other than the registration of births, marriages and deaths must not serve “to the detriment of the inhabitants of the territory” being occupied and must not be seen to further “entrench the authority of an illegal regime.”

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