In its Sunday edition (April 19, 2015) on page 12, Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) a Swiss German language daily newspaper published in Zurich, broke the story of war crimes committed by the United States in Hawai‘i. NZZ has a reputation as a quality newspaper and as the Swiss newspaper of record, the newspaper is known for its detailed reports on international affairs, stock exchange, and the intellectual, in-depth style of its articles. Here is the English translation of the article.
Click here to download the article in NZZ Sunday newspaper.
The authorities of the Federal Judiciary are confronted with a strange case, which has the potential of straining the relations between Switzerland and the USA. What is to be clarified is nothing less than the question of whether in the view of the [Swiss] Confederation Hawaii is recognized in accordance with international law as the 50th Federal State of the USA, or whether the Kingdom of Hawaii rather still exists – albeit since 1898 under occupation. Furthermore, it is to be determined whether the USA committed war crimes in Hawaii, including against Swiss residing there – and this possibly even with the assistance of the Swiss Joe Ackermann. It is indeed a delicate dossier, which since April 9 has been with the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona.
Coup against Lili‘uokalani
Specifically, the case is about the criminal complaints by a Swiss and a “Hawaiian Subject,” as the latter identifies himself in the documents. In petitions to the Office of the Swiss Federal Attorney General dating from January, these two accuse the US authorities of war crimes, including pillaging, unfair trials and unlawful detention. These are said to have taken place in the context of financial disputes in Hawaii – disputes which, however, are directly related to the question of Hawaii’s status in international law: Both plaintiffs hold the view that the Kingdom of Hawaii still exists, and that in consequence, the US authorities have no rights whatsoever in the archipelago. The Swiss, who by virtue of his nationality considers the Office of the Federal Attorney General to have jurisdiction in this case, is bringing action for unlawful appropriation of property as well as pillaging in form of taxation by the US tax authorities. The Hawaiian subject, on the other hand, sees himself as being cheated when purchasing a real property: The transaction at first followed US-American law and was notarized accordingly. But then the subject came to the conclusion that the USA was not authorized to do such official acts on the territory of the occupied Kingdom of Hawaii – in consequence he discontinued his interest payments to the lending bank.
|Joe AckermannAs former CEO of Deutsche Bank, the Swiss business leader was targeted by Hawaiian subjects
The bank in question was Deutsche Bank, which ordered the mortgaged property to be foreclosed, by US authorities of course. In this context the subject was temporarily arrested. At that time, Joe Ackermann was heading Deutsche Bank – a sufficient reason for the Hawaiian to make a criminal complaint against the Swiss banker to the Office of the Federal Attorney General in Berne. So much on the specific cases.
The matter might be dismissed as a legal frivolity by two odd characters, were it not for a larger movement standing behind it, a movement which has seriously been addressing the question of the continuity of the Kingdom of Hawaii for years. The prime mover is Keanu Sai, “a political scientist whose research and expertise centers on the continuity of the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent and sovereign State,” as he states.
At the center of the debate are historical events: In 1893, the last Queen of Hawaii, Lili‘uokalani, was deposed in a coup d’état and in 1895 forced to abdicate (see box). Goal of the coup leaders – protected by US troops – was the annexation of Hawaii by the USA. The latter happened, effectively, in 1898, in connection with the Spanish-American war, when Hawaii gained strategic importance in the Pacific. The USA employed as a basis for the occupation a so-called “joint resolution,” a legal act jointly passed in the Senate and the Congress [sic] in Washington. The admittance to the United States as the 50th State happened only in 1959, after a plebiscite with a clear-cut result – by then, of course, the culture of the Hawaiian people had already been pushed back strongly by American and Asian immigrants.
For Sai and his colleagues, the unilateral American decisions are all null and void. A “joint resolution” of the legislature in Washington, such as the one of 1898, could be legally effective according to constitutional law only within the USA and could not be extended to another territory, such as the Kingdom of Hawaii. The Federal State of Hawaii of today, therefore, is seen as a direct successor to the Republic of Hawaii that was proclaimed by the coup leaders in the 1890s. Thus, it would have no legitimacy whatsoever under international law. Sai has placed his struggle for the Kingdom of Hawaii into courtrooms all over the world, including in Switzerland. Here he is now representing the two plaintiffs. His argument includes a friendship treaty between the [Swiss] Confederation and the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1864: The Treaty is said to have been never officially cancelled or replaced with another convention. The treaty obliges both parties to protect each other’s citizens – thus, it is argued, the Office of the Federal Attorney General must now prosecute the alleged war crimes of the USA in Hawaii.
In Berne, sure enough, the situation is assessed differently: Pointing to the factual recognition of the USA in its present boundaries by the [Swiss] Federal Government, the prosecutor in charge decided not to accept the complaint. Berne, he argued, has no jurisdiction in the case. He included reference to the fact that Switzerland maintains a consulate in Hawaii – which is not without irony since, of all things, it is a long-serving diplomat who today is acting as a door-opener for Sai in Switzerland.
The dismissive decision of the Federal Attorney General’s Office was indeed unable to stop the Hawaiian independence fighter Sai: The latter appealed the decision – now the case is up to the judges in Bellinzona.