‪UN Press Release 17th May 2018 – Thailand: UN experts condemn use of defamation laws to silence human rights defender Andy Hall‬

UN Press Release 17th May 2018 – Thailand: UN experts condemn use of defamation laws to silence human rights defender Andy Hall https://www.protecting-defenders.org/en/news/thailand-un-experts-condemn-use-defamation-laws-silence-human-rights-defender-andy-hall

 

 

Thai version below

 

Thailand: UN experts condemn use of defamation laws to silence human rights defender Andy Hall

 

GENEVA (17 May 2018) – A group of UN human rights experts* has criticised the use of defamation legislation in Thailand to silence human rights defender Andy Hall and others who report business-related human rights abuses.

Since September 2016, Mr. Hall has faced multiple civil and criminal cases for exposing alleged human rights abuses related to the working conditions of migrant workers in several Thai companies.

The UN experts say the case against him is emblematic of the growing number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) in Thailand, filed by business enterprises seeking to silence legitimate concerns about working conditions in certain industries.

“Worryingly, we are seeing the use of defamation cases as a tool to undermine the legitimate rights and freedoms of communities and rights holders, who are often from some of the most vulnerable groups in society. Criminal defamation charges against human rights defenders serve only to criminalise their legitimate human rights work and may violate their right to freedom of expression,” the experts said.

“The UN Human Rights Committee has made clear that States should consider decriminalising defamation and that, even in the most serious cases, imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty. It is, therefore, critical for the Thai Government to revise its civil and criminal laws as well as prosecution processes to prevent misuse of defamation legislation by companies,” they added.

The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises conducted an official visit to Thailand between 26 March and 4 April 2018. “During this mission the Working Group raised concerns over defamation cases with the Thai Government and emphasised the need to ensure that relevant authorities engaged with human rights defenders constructively to prevent, mitigate and remedy adverse human rights impacts,” the experts noted.

Mr. Hall was convicted in September 2016 on charges of criminal defamation and offences under the Computer Crime Act, for his work as the primary researcher for a report published by a Finnish NGO, Finnwatch, entitled “Cheap has a high price”, which documented serious allegations of rights violations, including the trafficking of migrant workers, by a Thai food company. He was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 200,000 baht (5,200 euros). The sentence was later reduced by one year, with two years suspended, and the fine reduced to 150,000 baht.

On 26 March 2018, a Bangkok court ordered Mr. Hall to pay 10 million baht (approximately 320,000 USD) in damages to Natural Fruit Co. in a connected civil lawsuit, along with legal and court fees.

Previously, following new defamation accusations against him by Thammakaset Company Ltd, in November 2016, and pending an appeal against his conviction in the Natural Fruit case, Mr. Hall left Thailand, citing unbearable judicial harassment.

The new accusations relate to Mr. Hall’s work assisting 14 migrant workers who had reported exploitative working conditions at the Thammakaset chicken farm. An appeal by the migrant workers to the Supreme Court is pending; however the company has filed criminal charges against the 14 workers for defamation and providing false information to public officials.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 15TH MAY 2018: SECOND THAI COURT DISMISSES ANDY HALL’s NATURAL FRUIT COUNTER CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 15TH MAY 2018: SECOND THAI COURT DISMISSES ANDY HALL’s NATURAL FRUIT COUNTER CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

Today (15th May 2018), Prakanong Court in Bangkok, Thailand issued its first instance judgement dismissing the counter criminal prosecution case filed by British migrant worker rights activist Andy Hall against Thailand’s Natural Fruit Company Ltd. and two of its senior executives.

According to Hall’s legal defense team who attended the verdict at Prakanong Court this morning, the court, in dismissing Hall’s counter criminal prosecution case, ruled that none of those individuals or officials named in Hall’s counter criminal prosecutions including Natural Fruit’s executives, police officers and state prosecutors had acted unlawfully nor had they sought to unfairly persecute Hall or cause him any damage or loss in launching a criminal defamation prosecution against him which the Supreme Court of Thailand, Thailand’s highest Court, ultimately ruled in November 2016 was an unlawful prosecution.

The court also ruled in today’s judgement that, based on all the evidence before it, all of those aforementioned individuals and officials prosecuted by Hall merely had the good faith intention in launching a criminal defamation prosecution against Hall to bring him, as an accused criminal, to trial for an alleged unlawful act he had committed. That unlawful act concerned an interview that Hall gave to an Aljazeera journalist that allegedly defamed Natural Fruit Company, which when broadcast and distributed, caused the company and its owners alleged damage also.

Hall’s legal defense team is now considering today’s ruling of Prakanong Court in detail so as to prepare to appeal the decision to the Appeal’s Court and then onto the Supreme Court if necessary.

The ruling of Prakanong Court today follows a previous ruling on 25th September 2017 by the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Dusit District of Bangkok likewise dismissing Hall’s other or second counter criminal prosecution case against ten State Officials (prosecutors and police) concerning the same unlawful defamation prosecution against him. Continue reading

My Statement on Interpol Submission: 5 May 2018

My Statement on Interpol Submission 5 May 2018: ‘Today my authorized UK legal team formally liaised with Interpol to seek to ensure that no red notice is issued against me in the future in relation to judicial harassment I am continuing to face in Thailand, in breach of my fundamental human rights.’

30 Apr 2018: UK Foreign Affairs Minister Responds on Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall defamation conviction

30 Apr 2018 – Minister of State for UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mark Field responds on Natural Fruit case: ‘I am aware of the civil court order issued on 26 March by Prakhanong Court, calling for Mr Andy Hall to pay 10 million Thai baht in damages to Natural Fruit. We have not raised this court order with the Thai authorities as legal proceedings are ongoing. We remain in contact with Mr Hall, and have taken action to support him and the important issues he works on, including by raising these with the Thai authorities. We will continue to do so. The UK government supports the right of human rights defenders to carry out their work without fear of harassment or reprisals. We also support full implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.’

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-questions-answers/?page=1&max=20&questiontype=AllQuestions&house=commons%2clords&use-dates=True&keywords=andy%2chall

27th Apr 2018: Finland’s conglomerate S Group announces support for Andy Hall’s civil defamation appeal submission costs

Public statement issued today by Finland’s leading private sector co-operative conglomerate S Group (copied in full below)

https://www.s-kanava.fi/en/uutinen/the-freedom-of-action-of-human-rights-defenders-must-be-ensured/4442128_384136

Alongside Freedom Fund organisation, S Group today announced that it has donated the funds required to allow Andy Hall to submit an appeal against his recent Natural Fruit case civil defamation conviction. Thai Court regulations mean that in order to appeal this particular civil conviction, Hall needs in advance of the appeal submission to place a deposit at the court of almost 8, 000 Euros. Prakanong Court in Bangkok on 26th March 2018 ordered Hall to pay over 10 million baht to Natural Fruit Company in civil defamation damages and legal fees. The unofficial English translation of this verdict is available online at https://andyjhall.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/unofficial-english-language-translation-verdict-prakanong-court-26th-march-2018-natural-fruit-vs-andy-hall-civil-defamation-case/

S Group’s decision today in pledging further support to Andy Hall is yet another positive example or case study of increasing private sector or business commitment to human rights defenders and human rights globally, as well as a genuine and innovative attempt by a company at supply chain responsibility. In July 2016, an S Group senior executive previously was a defence witness at Andy Hall’s Natural Fruit criminal defamation and computer crimes trial, joining other senior executives from the Thai Tuna Industry Association (TTIA) and Thai Union Group. Likewise, TTIA, Thai Union and the Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA) previously covered bail costs as part of legal proceedings against Andy Hall in the Natural Fruit cases. TTIA and Thai Union, alongside Finnwatch, also previously paid a 150, 000 Thai baht fine imposed by the Bangkok South Criminal Court in Hall’s previous Natural Fruit criminal defamation and computer crimes conviction for which he was handed down a 3 year suspended prison sentence in September 2016.

Andy Hall is very grateful today to both S Group and Freedom Fund for contributing the 8, 000 Euros that makes the appeal against his civil defamation conviction now possible. Hall hopes in particular however that this private sector support to him can be cited as a positive example of corporate social responsibility and respect for business and human rights principles by other human rights defenders working hard and effectively on issues of business and human rights across the globe. This positive development and support by private sector actors like S Group in Hall’s case also shows that every dark cloud has a silver lining. Continue reading

Finnwatch Statement 24th April 2018: Thai court orders immediate issuance of arrest warrant for Andy Hall

Finnwatch Press Statement 24th April 2018: Thai court orders immediate issuance of arrest warrant for Andy Hall

https://www.finnwatch.org/en/news/542-thai-court-orders-immediate-issuance-of-arrest-warrant-for-andy-hall

Bangkok South Criminal Court today ordered for the immediate issuance of an arrest warrant for Andy Hall with a view to ensuring Hall’s attendance in the court to hear a verdict of the Appeals Court on multiple appeals against his September 2016 criminal conviction.

Diplomats from the EU Mission to Thailand alongside UK, Finnish and Swedish embassy officials and officials from OHCHR and ICJ attended today’s hearing alongside Hall’s legal defence team, a source at the Court informed Finnwatch.

The court was originally expected to read the appeals verdict today but the hearing on the appeal was instead adjourned until 31st May 2018 given Hall did not attend the court in person. Andy Hall is currently no longer resident in Thailand and attests that he was not formally summonsed to attend the Court today through any official or lawful channels.

In response to the todays news, Hall provided the following statement to Finnwatch:

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