Ruggles’ Supposed Sovereignty “Expert” Has A Troubling Past
by Jacob Perry
Big Island councilwoman Jen Ruggles has caused quite the stir over the past couple of weeks. Back in August, she made the controversial decision to neglect her legislative duties and become a martyr of the alleged war crimes of 1893 and 1898. With the help of sovereignty activist Dr. David Sai, Ruggles has been making the rounds as a “whistleblower,” holding townhalls and issuing statements about her message that the U.S. government illegally occupies the Hawaiian Islands. This claim is not new; the Hawaiian sovereignty movement has been around for decades. But this time, the commotion has some new clout: the opinion of a U.N. independent expert, Dr. Alfred-Maurice de Zayas.
Earlier this year, Dr. Sai made the bombshell announcement “United Nations Acknowledges the Occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom,” and publicly released a memorandum written by Dr. de Zayas, a U.N. official in the Human Rights Council, in which he stated “the lawful political status of the Hawaiian Islands is that of a sovereign nation-state in continuity; but a nation-state that is under a strange form of occupation by the United States resulting from an illegal military occupation and a fraudulent annexation.”
In reality, Dr. de Zayas, in his former capacity as United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, was an outside volunteer consultant not even on the U.N.’s payroll. To say that his letter is an acknowledgement from the United Nations is both disingenuous and misleading. Regardless, Dr. Sai hailed the memo has ‘remarkable’ while Ms. Ruggles has used it as the centerpiece of her recent information campaign. But while Dr. de Zayas possesses all the trappings of a geopolitical expert and qualified academic (Ph.D. from Harvard, world-traveling law professor, Fulbright research fellow), there are more than a few cases from his professional past that raise eyebrows.
In late 2017, de Zayas became the first U.N. official in over two decades to visit Venezuela, which has been facing economic collapse and widespread famine for nearly ten years.
Immediately after the trip was announced, a coalition of 48 NGOs (non-governmental organizations, including dozens of humanitarian groups and human rights watchdogs) issued an open letter to de Zayas, urging him to set reasonable preconditions before his arrival. But he refused and instead, was welcomed warmly by Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. De Zayas also posted propaganda photos of packed supermarkets and grocery stores. And when he returned, he doubled down by explicitly denying the existence of any famine, violence, or any humanitarian crisis, and describing Maduro’s repressive socialist regime as a “capitalist system [with] a humane face.” The Caracas Chronicles, an independent national news organization in Venezuela, said de Zayas’ “ideological blindness” was “a triumph for Venezuelan state propaganda.”
As if that wasn’t enough, de Zayas is also a hero among anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. According to British journalist and international human rights advocate Tom Gross, writing on Huffington Post, “[de Zayas’] books on World War II portray Germans as victims and the Allies as perpetrators of “genocide”… while not denying the Holocaust himself, he has nonetheless become a hero to many Holocaust deniers, and his sayings are featured on many of their websites. He has called for Israel to be expelled from the UN, while he has defended the ruthless Iranian regime.”
Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review (a think tank dedicated to Holocaust denial) has cited de Zayas’ work extensively to support his effort of downplaying the Holocaust, in which over 10 million innocent civilians were killed. Weber and de Zayas also share the view that the Nuremberg Trials, which prosecuted Nazi war criminals, was an unjustified sham. In his own words, de Zayas said the post-war tribunal had “hardly any legitimacy.” Additionally, other prominent German historians have publicly derided de Zayas, describing his work as faulty, ignorant, and historically revisionist.
This is who Dr. Sai and Ms. Ruggles have chosen to place their faith in: an apologist for dictators, and a hero to Holocaust deniers. Despite these questionable episodes from de Zayas’ career, Ms. Ruggles has decided to base her claim of war crimes and illegal occupation on his one-and-a-half-page memo. In her recent letter to all of the circuit court judges in the state, Ms. Ruggles referred to the de Zayas memo, calling it an “accurate statement of the law” that “describes the legal obligations of the United States.”
If sovereignty activists wish to make progress, or wish to foster an open dialogue about Hawaiian history, their sources and experts must stand up to scrutiny. I’m not saying that Dr. de Zayas’ defense of Maduro or his minimization of the Holocaust is automatically disqualifying, but, at the very least, it should provoke some serious concerns. Not just for him, but also for those who have aligned themselves with him.
UNW: U.N. to Endorse Hero of Holocaust Deniers, Alfred De Zayas
UNW: U.N. chief must condemn own expert’s ‘fake investigation’ of Venezuela rights record
CC: Ideological Blindness of UN Expert is a Triumph for Venezuelan State Propaganda