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

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.

Andy Hall, who currently lives in Nepal where he continues to work on migrant worker rights, was not present at today’s hearing. Hall has not been a resident in Thailand since he left the country in 2016 after 11 years of activism there, citing intolerable judicial harassment.

– Whilst I respect today’s ruling, I am disappointed by the verdict. My activism for over a decade in Thailand intended only to promote and uphold the fundamental rights of millions of migrant workers in the country. These workers continue to find themselves without a voice in high risk situations of forced labour and subject to systemic human and labour rights violations in global supply chains. My work has never intended to damage the reputation or legitimate business interests of Thai companies, nor has it been malicious. I remain open to reconciliation to put an end once and for all to this continued and irrational cycle of litigation, said Andy Hall.

In order to appeal this particular civil conviction, Hall had to place a deposit of 422 350 baht (11 880 euros) at the court in advance of the appeal’s submission. UK-based organisation Freedom Fund alongside the Finnish grocery retailer S Group donated the required funds, with Freedom United and Solidarity Center supporting ongoing legal fees.

Today’s decision concerns a 100 million baht (2.8 million euros) civil defamation claim Natural Fruit originally filed against Andy Hall in 2013. The claim was related to an Al Jazeera English interview which Hall gave in Yangon, Myanmar. According to Natural Fruit, Hall intentionally harmed the reputation of the company by speaking and/or publishing false information. The Appeals Court today upheld the decision of Prakanong Court once again affirming that Hall had not convinced the Court through evidence or witnesses of the validity of his statements to Aljazeera English and as such, Natural Fruit had suffered quantifiable damages.

This 100 million baht civil damages claim is just one of four civil and criminal cases filed by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall following the publication of a Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price in 2013. The report, for which Hall only conducted worker interviews and fieldwork, alleged several labour and human rights violations at the company’s pineapple processing plant.

Natural Fruit also more recently filed a 50 million baht (1.4 million euros) damages claim against Hall and two of his defense lawyers in relation to a counter prosecution Hall filed against the company that was dismissed in 2018. This latest case shall commence at trial in November 2019.

Andy Hall has previously been acquitted of all criminal charges filed against him by Natural Fruit. The Appeals Court in its ruling on one of the criminal charges confirmed many of the findings in the Finnwatch report. Considerations of the other civil damages claim against Hall filed by Natural Fruit are yet to commence as a related criminal case acquittal is pending an appeal to Thailand’s Supreme Court.

Today’s Appeal’s Court ruling was observed by diplomats from both the Finnish and United Kingdom’s Embassies in Bangkok.

For more information see Q&A: Criminal and Civil Prosecutions – Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall, last updated on 22nd May 2019, available at https://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May2019_FINAL.pdf

Contact:

Sonja Vartiala

Executive director, Finnwatch

+358 44 568 7465

sonja.vartiala@finnwatch.org

Andy Hall

Independent Migrant Worker Rights Specialist

+977 98234 86634

andyjhall1979@gmail.com

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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

Fortify Rights Statement 31 May 2018: Thailand’s Appeal Court Overturns Conviction Against Labor-Rights Activist Andy Hall

(Thai version below)

https://us10.campaign-archive.com/?e=466cfdf184&u=f15b18127e37f74088063b773&id=950d20932d

Thailand’s Appeal Court Overturns Conviction Against Labor-Rights Activist Andy Hall

(Bangkok, May 31, 2018)—Thailand’s Appeal Court today overturned an earlier decision by the Bangkok South Criminal Court on September 20, 2016 to convict Andy Hall, a British labor-rights activist, on criminal defamation charges and alleged violations under the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act.

In response to today’s verdict, Sutharee Wannasiri, Thailand Human Rights Specialist with Fortify Rights said:

“This is a monumental verdict towards upholding the rights to freedom of expression and the legitimate work of human rights defenders in Thailand. It is encouraging that the Court recognizes the legitimate work of human rights defenders and whistleblowers who report on human rights abuses within the business sector.

Investigating human rights abuses is not and never will be a crime. Today’s court decision sends a positive signal to the international community that Thailand will not tolerate business enterprises intimidating human rights activists through criminal prosecutions.

These criminal prosecutions aim to silence individuals who speak out against human rights abuses, creating a climate of fear among human rights activists and affected communities in Thailand. Thai authorities and business enterprises should immediately and unconditionally cease all criminal proceedings against all human rights defenders and whistleblowers.

The Thai Government should urgently decriminalize defamation. Until then, Thailand will continue to fall short of meeting its obligations under international law.

The complaint against Andy Hall should never have been brought in the first place. Human rights defenders shouldn’t be criminally prosecuted for reporting on concerning corporate practices, including issues around labor rights protection and the treatment of migrant workers.”

Continue reading

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT Thailand: Successful appeal for British activist Andy Hall a victory for justice 31 May 2018

‪AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT Thailand: Successful appeal for British activist Andy Hall a victory for justice 31 May 2018

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/thailand-successful-appeal-british-activist-andy-hall-victory-justice

The Bangkok South Criminal Court has overturned its conviction of Andy Hall, a British human rights defender found guilty of criminal defamation in September 2016 for his work into the abuse of migrant workers’ rights in Thailand.

Katherine Gerson, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Thailand, said:

“This successful appeal is very welcome, and it underlines how the original conviction against Andy Hall was an abuse of justice that should never have been allowed.

“Unless followed by legislative and policy changes, however, this decision will do little to compensate for a system that allows for the targeting of human rights defenders who dare to stand up against companies involved in abusive practices.

“The Thai government must work to repeal all criminal defamation laws and take measures to protect both the rights of migrant workers and the freedom of expression of those who are defending their rights.”

Charges

Andy Hall was found guilty by the Bangkok South Criminal Court in 2016 for criminal defamation charges brought against him by the Natural Fruit Company Ltd. The company was the subject of a 2013 report that Mr Hall worked on for the civil society group Finnwatch while researching abuses of migrant workers’ rights in Thailand.

Hall was fined 150 000 Baht and received a three-year sentence. His sentence was suspended for two years.