On November 8, 1999, international arbitration proceedings were initiated at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), The Hague, Netherlands, between Lance Paul Larsen and the acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom (Larsen v. Hawaiian Kingdom). The arbitration agreement provided, “The Arbitral Tribunal is asked to determine, on the basis of the Hague Conventions IV and V of 18 October 1907, and the rules and principles of international law, whether the rights of the Claimant under international law as a Hawaiian subject are being violated, and if so, does he have any redress against the Respondent Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom?”
Larsen was arrested on October 4, 1999, in Hilo, Hawai‘i, and imprisoned for 30 days, seven of which were in solitary confinement, for following Hawaiian Kingdom law. Larsen, as the Claimant, alleged that the acting government, the Respondent, was legally liable to him for allowing the unlawful imposition of American municipal laws over him within the territorial jurisdiction of the Hawaiian Kingdom. In the pleading, Larsen’s attorney, Ms. Ninia Parks, esq., based her case on the following grounds:
- Mr. Larsen is a Hawaiian subject, with a Hawaiian nationality.
- As a Hawaiian subject, Mr. Larsen is bound by Hawaiian Kingdom law. He is not bound by the laws of the State of Hawaii nor by the laws of the United States of America.
- Mr. Larsen’s rights as a Hawaiian subject have been systematically and continuously denied by the United States of America, the occupying force in the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian islands by the United States of America. At a minimum, the United States of America has continually denied Mr. Larsen’s nationality as a Hawaiian subject, has illegally imposed American laws over his person, has extorted monetary fines from Mr. Larsen under threat of imprisonment, and has imprisoned Mr. Larsen for asserting his lawful rights as a Hawaiian national.
- The government of the Hawaiian Kingdom has a duty to protect the rights of Mr. Larsen, a Hawaiian subject, despite the continued occupation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States of America.
- The government of the Hawaiian Kingdom, through its acting Regency, has not fulfilled this duty.
In its pleading, the acting Government, represented by Dr. Keanu Sai as lead agent, denied the allegations and submitted “that the Claimant’s rights under international law are being violated, but to what extent, is left to the Arbitral Tribunal to decide. That this decision must be made within fixed and established principles and laws pertaining to the matter, and that the Hawaiian Kingdom Government is not liable for redress of these violations under its present conditions as an occupied State.”
In the American Journal of International Law, vol. 95, p. 928 (2001), and reprinted in the Hawaiian Journal of Law and Politics, vol. 1, p. 83 (2004), Bederman and Hilbert, state that at “the center of the PCA proceeding 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 Hawai‘i. 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 committed against him.”
In February 2000, the PCA’s Secretary General Tjaco T. van den Hout recommended that the acting Government provide a formal invitation to the United States to join in the arbitration. In order to carry out this request by the Secretary General, Dr. Sai was sent to Washington, D.C. Ms. Ninia Parks, attorney for the Claimant Lance Larsen, accompanied Dr. Sai.
On March 3, 2000, a telephone meeting with John R. Crook, Assistant Legal Adviser for United Nations Affairs section of the US Department of State, was held. It was stated to Mr. Crook that the “visit was to provide these documents to the Legal Department of the U.S. Department of State in order for the U.S. Government to be apprised of the arbitral proceedings already in train and that the Hawaiian Kingdom, by consent of the Claimant, extends an opportunity for the United States to join in the arbitration as a party.”
Mr. Crook was made fully aware of the United States occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the establishment of the acting Government. This direct challenge to US sovereignty over the Hawaiian Islands should have prompted the United States to protest the action taken by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in accepting the Hawaiian arbitration case and call upon the Secretary General to cease and desist because this action constitutes a violation of US sovereignty. The United States did neither. Instead, Deputy Secretary General Phyllis Hamilton notified the acting Government that the United States notified the Court that it will not join in the arbitration, but did request from the acting government permission to access all pleadings and transcripts of the case. Both the acting government and Larsen’s attorney consented. By this action, the United States directly acknowledged the circumstances of the proceedings and the acting government’s representation of the Hawaiian Kingdom before an international tribunal.
Three distinguished jurists presided on the Arbitration Tribunal. Professor James Crawford, SC, served as Presiding arbitrator. Professor Crawford is a professor of international law at the University of Cambridge. At the time of the arbitration, Crawford was also a member of the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC) and was responsible for the ILC’s work on the International Criminal Court (1994) and the Articles on State Responsibility (2001).
Judge Sir Christopher Greenwood, QC, served as Associate arbitrator. Greenwood was at the time professor of international law at the London School of Economics and Political Science and legal counsel to the United Nations on the Laws of War and Occupation. In 2008, the United Nations elected Greenwood to be judge on the International Court of Justice.
Dr. Gavan Griffith, QC, served as Associate Arbitrator. Griffith was former Solicitor General for Australia and also served as counsel and agent for Australia in Nauru v. Australia before the International Court of Justice.
Three days of oral hearings were set for December 7, 8 and 11, 2000 at the PCA. At the center of these proceedings was whether or not Larsen was able to maintain his suit against the acting Government for not protecting him without the participation of the United States who would need to answer to the alleged violations committed by them against Larsen. Larsen was attempting to hold the acting Government responsible for his injuries committed by the United States. In international law, this is a situation called the “necessary and indispensable party” rule and it was the basis of decisions made by the International Court of Justice in Monetary Gold case (Italy v. France, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America), the Nauru case (Nauru v. Australia), and the East Timor case (Portugal v. Australia).
In the 2001 Arbitral Award, the Tribunal explained, that it “cannot determine whether the Respondent [the acting government] 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 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, did acknowledge the Hawaiian Kingdom to be an independent State. In its decision, the Tribunal concluded in the Award, “that in the nineteenth century the Hawaiian Kingdom existed as an independent State recognized as such by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and various other States, including by exchanges of diplomatic or consular representatives and the conclusion of treaties.” International law provides for the continuity of the Hawaiian Kingdom since the nineteenth century to the present, which was the basis for the arbitration case in the first place.