Blog 13th Sep 2019: Stamping Out Modern Day Slavery from the EU’s Rubber Glove Supply Chains

By Andy Hall,
@atomicalandy & andyjhall1979@gmail.com

In 2014, Finnwatch and I first discovered rampant forced labour and exploitation of migrant workers toiling away in medical gloves factories in Malaysia and Thailand.

In late 2018, the Guardian published an investigation revealing forced labour from high recruitment fees and debt bondage at Top Glove, the world’s largest glove manufacturer in Malaysia supplying Britain’s National Health Service.

Despite some minimal improvements, it’s clear that modern day slavery in factories in Asia supplying basic hygiene and medical products to the EU remains systemic.

In 2018, an estimated 268 billion gloves were used globally, with an annual increase of 15% predicted. Ensuring a continuous supply of gloves, mostly manufactured in migrant labour-intensive factories in Thailand and Malaysia, is vital for maintaining public health and ensuring food safety.

Yet does our dependence on gloves and other hygiene, safety and medical products tainted by exploitation, and procured often cheaply so as to reduce taxation burdens, mean manufacturers or suppliers are exempt from combatting this abuse?

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16th July 2019: Responsible Migrant Worker Recruitment Practices: How to Move from Rhetoric to Reality

By Andy Hall

 

Given increasing interest globally in combatting forced labour and modern day slavery in global supply chains, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and Humanity United come together today to host the workshop Driving Responsible Recruitment in Asia in Malaysia. The Malaysian Minister for Human Resources will present a key note speech at this event

 

Unethical recruitment is a key driver placing many migrant workers(indeed most workers migrating to Malaysia) in situations of forced labourparticularly as a result of debt bondage. Impoverished individuals continue to pay highly for dirty, dangerous and demeaning work within ASEAN during expensive and non-transparent recruitment processes  even for work at companies sourcing to global buyers claiming a commitment to ethical/zero cost” recruitment. 

 

There is currently much rhetoric but too little commitment of actual resources and genuine effort to ensure significant moves towards ethical recruitment for migrant workers. A lack of on the ground knowledge and experience how best to support ethical recruitment practices and concerning key factors that must be effectively addressed to ensure success is also impeding progress Electronics Watch’s practical guidance outlines steps to be taken to ensure ethical recruitment of migrant workers. But more than this useful guidance, a radical change of mindset and approach is also needed. 

 

As a priority, ethical recruitment models that seek to monitor and then control subagents or brokers involved in recruitment processes in origin countries need piloting. Registered subagents or broker, whether lawful or not under local laws, are an indispensable actor in most migrant recruitment channels linking workers from rural areas to agencies in capitals. Short timelines, complex recruitment processes and worker’s limited education necessitate that most migrants, even those processed by supposed ‘ethical’ recruiters, engage subagents or brokers during recruitment. 

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Finnwatch Press Release 22nd May 2019: Appeals Court orders British migrant rights defender Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht in damages to Thai pineapple company Natural Fruit

https://finnwatch.org/en/news/625-appeals-court-orders-andy-hall-to-pay-10-million-baht-in-damages-to-natural-fruit

The Prakanong Court in Bangkok, Thailand today read an Appeals Court’s verdict on Andy Hall’s appeal against a 2018 10 million baht (approx. 281 000 euros) civil defamation conviction, maintaining the lower court’s ruling and conviction. Andy Hall said today he will liaise with his legal defence team to appeal the ruling to Thailand’s Supreme Court but that he also remains open to reconciliation to end a continuing cycle of irrational litigation against him.

In March 2018, the Prakanong Court ordered Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht in damages to a Thai pineapple company, Natural Fruit Co Ltd, including an interest of 7.5% from the date of filing the case in 2013 until the amount was fully paid. The Court additionally ordered Hall to pay 10 000 baht (281 euros) towards Natural Fruit’s lawyer and court fees.

– We are shocked by today’s verdict. An Appeals Court already last year found that the findings in the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price were well-founded. Now another Appeals Court has found Andy Hall guilty of civil defamation because he spoke about those findings to Al Jazeera. This makes no sense, said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch.

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For Immediate Release 6th September 2018: Andy Hall’s Legal Defence Team Submits Appeal Against 10m Baht Civil Defamation ‘Aljazeera Interview’ Conviction Using €11,000 of Donated Funds

For Immediate Release 6th September 2018: Andy Hall’s Legal Defence Team Submits Appeal Against 10m Baht Civil Defamation ‘Aljazeera Interview’ Conviction Using €11,000 of Donated Funds

Today at 4pm (Bangkok time), Andy Hall’s legal defence team appealed Prakanong Court’s March 2018 10 million baht (€262,000) imposed fine & civil defamation ‘Aljazeera interview’ conviction to Thailand’s Appeals Court using €11,000 (422, 350 baht) donated by S Group and Freedom Fund with legal support fees from Freedom United and Solidarity Center.

An updated ‘Q&A on Civil & Criminal Prosecutions: Andy Hall vs. Natural Fruit’ providing background to the March 2018 10m baht civil defamation conviction and details of Andy Hall’s two criminal case acquittals and other outstanding civil cases is available at https://andyjhall.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/naturalfruitvsandyhallqa_may312018.pdf

The 422, 350 baht (€11,000+) deposited by Andy Hall’s legal team with the Prakanong Court today (donated with thanks S Group and Freedom Fund) was required to be deposited according to Thai Court regulations prior to Hall’s appealing the Mar 2018 10m baht civil Natural Fruit defamation conviction.

2nd July 2018: Thailand Appeals Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases Dismisses Andy Hall’s Counter Prosecutions Against State Officials

Today (2nd July, 2018) Andy Hall, a British migrant worker rights specialist, received confirmation from his legal defence team in Thailand that the Appeals Court for Corruption & Misconduct Cases recently dismissed his counter criminal prosecutions filed in May 2017 against 10 State prosecution and police officials. The Appeals Court upheld a first instance decision of the Central Court for Corruption & Misconduct Cases that dismissed these prosecutions back in September 2017. Hall’s legal defence team is considering this Appeals Court ruling in detail to prepare to appeal the prosecution dismissal to Thailand’s highest Court, the Supreme Court.

The judgement of the Appeals Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, issued on 9th May 2018 and available in Thai language (see คำพิพากษาศาลอุทธรณ์คดีแอนดี้ศาลอาญาทุจริต), outlines various reasons for dismissing Hall’s counter criminal prosecutions. The Court ruled that none of the 10 officials named in Hall’s prosecutions (including police officers, state prosecutors and senior officials from the Attorney General’s department) had acted unlawfully in launching in July 2013 a criminal defamation prosecution against Hall which the Supreme Court, affirming decisions of both Prakanong Court and the Appeals Court, ruled in November 2016 was an unlawful prosecution. The Court also ruled that none of these officials had sought to unfairly persecute Hall or cause him any damage or loss by means of their prosecution against him .

This recent dismissal follows a May 2018 decision of Prakanong Court in Bangkok that issued its first instance judgement also dismissing a counter criminal prosecution case filed in May 2017 by Hall against Thailand’s Natural Fruit Company Ltd. and two of its senior executives. Hall’s legal defense team is also preparing to appeal this first instance Court ruling to the Appeals Court.

The unlawful criminal defamation prosecution that led to these two sets of dismissed counter criminal prosecutions concerned an interview Hall gave to Aljazeera English in Myanmar in April 2013 that allegedly defamed Natural Fruit Company and which, when broadcast and distributed, allegedly caused the company and its owners damage. This prosecution by Natural Fruit was filed as a criminal complaint at Bangna Police Station, recommended for prosecution by the police before being accepted by Prakanong Prosecutor and Thailand’s Attorney General.

Despite Thailand’s Supreme Court dismissing the related criminal defamation case against Hall, Prakanong Court went on however to find Hall guilty of civil defamation concerning this same Aljazeera interview in April 2018. The Court ordered Hall to pay Natural Fruit Company 10 million Euros in damages as well as legal fees. Following a donation of over 12, 000 Euros from S Group and Freedom Fund to cover related Court fees required to appeal this conviction, as well as additional donations received towards mounting legal fees, Hall’s legal defense team is currently preparing an appeal against this recent civil defamation conviction also.

Hall’s counter criminal prosecution cases filed against state officials and Natural Fruit Company were launched so as to allow detailed judicial consideration of the unlawful nature of the previous criminal defamation prosecution filed by Natural Fruit Company and jointly prosecuted by Thailand’s Attorney General against Hall. The ruling of Thailand’s Supreme Court in favour of Hall in the Aljazeera interview criminal case provided his legal defense team with the legal option to launch counter criminal prosecutions against Natural Fruit company, it’s executives and State prosecution officials in order to try to defend Hall from ongoing judicial harassment he was facing in the country prior to his departure in late 2016.

I continue to pursue counter litigations consisting of two sets of criminal prosecutions today with a heavy heart and not out of anger or with any desire for revenge. It is regretful that things have reached this stage. However, it is necessary to continue to pursue these litigations as I must defend myself against an unlawful prosecution and sustained judicial harassment waged against me that continues unabated,’ said Andy Hall from Kathmandu in Nepal.

I was encouraged to initiate these litigations by migrant workers whom I continue to support in Thailand. After both my criminal and civil convictions, many workers and rights defenders in Thailand and even globally told me they hesitate to voice concerns on exploitation or report fully on abuses due to fear of negative repercussions. Despite the Appeals Court already overturning my only outstanding criminal conviction in May 2018, it’s still imperative that these two sets of counter criminal prosecutions claim space back for victims of rights abuses, exploited workers and human rights defenders to speak out with confidence about unlawful conduct by business and state actors without repercussions,’ said Hall.

I also continue to pursue these counter criminal prosecutions because of the advice and support provided to me by a committed team of human rights lawyers. My legal team and I aim to contribute through these litigations towards reform of the Thai justice system that is being wrongly utilized to harass human rights defenders like myself. Such reform of the Thai justice system through pressure from litigation such as mine can hopefully enhance the rule of law and ensure meaningful accountability for victims of the unlawful and unacceptable abuse of state police investigatory and prosecutorial powers in Thailand,’ Hall added today.

For more information on this recent Appeals Court judgement, Andy Hall’s counter prosecution and other cases concerning the Natural Fruit saga, contact Andy Hall on +977(0)9823486634 and Andyjhall1979@gmail.com OR Nakhon Chomphuchat, head of Andy Hall’s legal team on +66(0)818 473086 and nakhonct@gmail.com

For more detailed information on the Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall saga including information on numerous other criminal and civil cases involved, see updated May 2018 Finnwatch Q&A (NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May312018) OR the Andy Hall vs. Natural Fruit blog site www.andyjhall.wordpress.com

20th Jun 18: Unofficial English language translation/key summary of Appeals Court judgement acquitting Andy Hall of criminal charges in Natural Fruit case

NF judgement English Translation (Final) link will take you to an unofficial English language translation in PDF of Thailand’s Appeals Court 31 May 2018 landmark verdict/judgement overturning my September 2016 criminal conviction in the main Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall criminal prosecution (Thai version of original judgement available at Andy Hall Appeal Court Verdict or here). As the judgement is lengthy, for ease of reference, I highlight the key points from the judgement in yellow in this PDF unofficial translation and copy them below in this post also. I am most grateful to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) for providing the funds to enable an unofficial English language translation of this landmark verdict/judgement to be undertaken.

For more information on this verdict and Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall saga cases, also see:

  1. 31st May 2018 Statement by Andy Hall on Appeals Court Acquittal https://andyjhall.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/statement-by-andy-hall-31-may-2018-on-appeals-court-verdict/
  1. Finnwatch Press Release 31st May 2018: Thai Appeals Court rules in favour of Andy Hall quashing criminal conviction https://finnwatch.org/en/news/550-thai-appeals-court-rules-in-favour-of-andy-hall-quashing-criminal-conviction
  1. Finnwatch Q&A document Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall cases, last updated on 31st May 2018, available at http://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May312018.pdf
  1. Andy Hall vs. Natural Fruit blog pagewww.andyjhall.wordpress.com

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KEY POINTS OF APPEALS COURT VERDICT (as translated into English and highlighted in yellow in PDF full version of judgement)

**”What the plaintiff deemed as defamatory imputations were all the facts stating to the effect that there were human trafficking and violations of human rights and labour protection law. The actions related to human trafficking and human rights violation are the infringements of people’s fundamental rights, which were protected by Thailand’s constitution at the time of the offense and the current constitution also recognizes such rights. In addition, the violation of workers’ rights, which is an offense against the labour protection law, could be an action involving human trafficking that the public or a concerned person that witnesses such offense has the right to inform the public of the fact about it.”  Continue reading