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Hawaiian Treaty Case Sent International Court

The US Federal Court in Hawaii has given a citizen leave to appeal to the International Court of Arbitration in the Hague over a claim that the US violated an 1849 Treaty of Commerce, Friendship and Navigation it had with the Hawaiian Kingdom. John Howard reports.

Lance Paul Larsen, an indigenous Hawaiian, filed a lawsuit in the US Federal Court alleging the United States signed a treaty with the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1849 but then violated it by imposing US domestic law into the Kingdom.

On October 29 1999, a settlement was reached when US Federal Court Judge Samuel King, agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on the proviso that Larsen and the Hawaiian Kingdom can submit the case to the International Court in the Hague for final and binding arbitration.

The court has now been asked to determine, on the basis of the Hague Conventions IV and V of October 1907, and the rules and principles of international law, whether the rights of Larsen and others are being violated and, if so, do they have any redress.

For more than a thousand years many treaties, or documents in the form of treaties, were signed by officials colonising new lands or as a result of either an internal or external threat of war.

Throughout the world there exists many early treaties signed or sealed which were never honoured because ordinary people at the time could not read or write, could not understand or were unaware of them.

However, they are now being questioned more frequently, with the Courts today upholding the right to challenge the meaning and intent of them.

The Hawaiian case will be determined by the international court later this year.

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