Hawaiian Sovereignty Moves Forward in International Courts

The mission to take back the Hawaiian Kingdom after more than 100 years of U.S. occupation is a matter of exposing war crimes.

The mission to take back the Hawaiian Kingdom after more than 100 years of United States occupation is a matter of exposing war crimes and seeking compliance through international venues, said Dr. Keanu Sai, political scientist and acting-ambassador for Hawai‘i. “This isn’t a matter of America doing the right thing. America will be forced to comply,” he said.

For more than 100 years, the United States has unlawfully occupied Hawai’i, forcing Americanization upon Hawaiian citizens. These are considered war crimes under international law, the same war crimes Germany was prosecuted for in the trials at Nuremberg in 1945.

In June, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law will determine whether or not Hawai’i will be listed as an occupied state in the “War Report.”

In a short university tour along the northeast coast, Sai detailed the plan to end the illegal and prolonged American occupation of Hawai’i. His presentation of the Americanization of Hawai’i will be a familiar saga to North American tribes that also endured language and cultural suppression. “Under international law, this crime attempts to denationalize the inhabitants of an occupied state,” Sai said.

Before Americanization, Hawai’i was recognized as a sovereign state by countries around the world, where Hawai’i maintained over 90 embassies and consulates. The increase of Hawai’i’s population from 1890 to 1950, which grew from 89,000 to 499,000 is “what happens when you occupy a country,” Sai said, citing Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which states an occupier may not transfer parts of its own civilian population into territory it occupies.

Taking back Hawai’i is a multi-faceted process. The education of the people in Hawai’i is an important step and Sai has been spreading the word internationally and at home. The University of Hawai’i is becoming a think tank where graduate students research the past as well as plan the next steps in Hawai’i’s future.

An acting government was established in 1997 to expose the occupation internationally. “We cannot take action to enforce Hawaiian law. We are just holding the fort to expose the occupation,” Sai said. “If you are kidnapped, you don’t fight the kidnapper. You just get the word out about the situation you are in and seek compliance to the laws of occupation.”

Sai has taken the situation to international courts, where Hawai’i has been accepted, validating Hawai’i’s continued status as a sovereign nation. Sai explained that, “The burden is not upon the Hawaiian Kingdom to prove it exists, but rather upon the U.S. to prove it doesn’t. Where’s the treaty?”

There is no treaty between the U.S. and Hawai’i, according to Sai, who added that Congress passed a joint resolution of annexation in 1898, but Congressional laws have no force beyond U.S. borders. Unless the United States can show a treaty, Hawai’i today remains a sovereign state.

Christina Rose

Dr. Keanu Sai’s presentation highlighted the war crime of denationalizing Hawai’i’s citizens during the prolonged U.S. occupation.

At the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands, Sai said, “The court had to verify that Hawai’i is a sovereign state before they accepted our case.” He added that the U.S. was given an opportunity to prove otherwise. “The State Department was invited to step up and prove Hawai’i was the 50th state.”

In 2000, Sai spoke with John Crook, Assistant Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., to discuss the offer to join the international arbitration. Crook declined to join the arbitration, but requested access to all of the court records. When Crook was recently contacted about Hawai’i’s status, he said he preferred not to comment. He wrote in an email, “I do not want to discount anyone’s concerns or arguments, but this is not a conversation where I have anything to contribute. I haven’t worked on or thought about these issues for two decades. I remember very little about them.”

In 2001, the Permanent Court of Arbitration verified that Hawai’i continues to exist as a sovereign state, since it once was a an independent state, recognized as such by the United States, the United Kingdom, and various other countries. Sai explained that, “This is a rule of international law called the presumption of continuity.”

Free now to enter other venues to continue the exposure of the U.S. occupation, Sai has earned the support of Rwanda, whose Ambassador Bihozagara, assigned to Belgium, told Sai, “It is clear that Hawai’i is occupied.”

Sai approached the United Nations General Assembly, which hesitated to accept a complaint, assuming Hawai’i was the 50th American state. However, after seeing the increasing body of evidence, the complaint was accepted.

“We are planting seeds,” Sai said. At this point, the acting-government has filed a lawsuit with 45 countries, including Switzerland, that have violated international law and supported U.S. occupation. Sai was invited by former Swiss diplomats to give a presentation at Zurich University.

Even the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, which acts as a protecting power to ensure compliance of international law during occupations, has been approached by Hawai’i’s acting-government. “They were requested to step in and assist in securing a protecting power. They are supposed to, under the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Sai said.

The acting government also met with the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law, which works with the Swiss Foreign Ministry, the United Nations, and more, “to consider and proclaim Hawai’i as an occupied country,” Sai said. “It’s like a game of chess, and you have to think five steps ahead when you make the first move.”

The plan to remove the U.S. occupation will include a temporary military government established by the U.S. to administer Hawaiian Law. “They should have done it in 1893, and they still have to do it,” Sai said. Next, the U.S. must proclaim “all laws illegally imposed since 1893 shall be the temporary laws of Hawai’i until the Hawaiian legislature can be convened to confirm them,” he explained.

John Waihee III, governor of Hawaii from 1986-1994, has long been involved in Native Hawaiian issues. He said the work Sai has done has been very important. “It identifies our history, which is the foundation of what we need to do. He has analyzed and is starting to apply the way we will proceed. Now, with the international court of justice and other institutions, Sai’s work is forcing people to acknowledge the existence of the Hawaiian nation, and that is basic to everything else we are going to do.”

Michi Moore/Wikimedia

Local singer/entertainer Jimmy Borges and former Hawaii Governor John Waihee.

There has been a very successful language and cultural revival that began in the 1980s, and the legal and political context will maximize these actions, Sai said. “We have to look at ourselves as a neutral country. It is just very exciting to be a part of this.”