EU High Representative/Vice President Ashton clarifies position on my case in European Parliament – 22nd Oct

Parliamentary Questions 22nd October 2013 (EN E-009811/2013)
Answer given by High Representative/Vice President Ashton on behalf of the European Commission

The EU Delegation in Thailand follows this case very closely, which includes direct contacts with Andrew Hall and trial observation. It does so in close cooperation with the most concerned Member States.

The case is between two private parties and is now before a Thai court. The EU will continue to follow the trial in full respect of the independence of the Thai judicial system.

Overall, support and outreach to human rights defenders is an important part of the EU’s work in Thailand, in cooperation with Member States.

Examples of this work include trial observations on Human Rights Defenders’ cases on issues ranging from freedom of expression to land rights, detention visit of Human Right Defenders, EU statements on court rulings, meetings across country with Human Rights Defenders, organisation of meetings between visiting Members of the European Parliament and senior European External Action Service (EEAS) officials with Human Rights Defenders and the organisation of seminars on Issues and Challenges Faced by Human Rights Defenders.

Parliamentary questions
2 September 2013
Question for written answer
to the Commission (Vice-President/High Representative)
Rule 117
Charles Tannock (ECR)

Subject: VP/HR‐ Criminal charges against Andrew Hall in Thailand

On 2 January 2013 the Finnish‐based NGO, Finnwatch, published the report, ‘Cheap Has a High Price’. The report documented alleged exploitation of migrant workers by the National Fruit Company in Thailand and made other claims of human rights abuses.

The report alleged that workers were being forced to work in cramped, overheated and dangerous working environments; that workers were hit by managers and security guards; that passports and identity papers were confiscated and not returned upon request and that wages were below the legal requirement, with compulsory overtime being enforced. The report also accused the company of using child labour.

Since the publication of the report, its chief author, British citizen Andrew Hall, is being sued for defamation by the company in question. He is being charged under the Thai Criminal Code sections 90, 91, 236, 328 and 332; sections 3 and 4 of the Computer Crimes Act 2007 have also been leveled. If found guilty, Mr Hall could face up to 7 years in prison and fines in excess of USD 10 million.

Campaigners claim that the charges are an attempt by the company to silence its critics and prevent alleged abuses from being scrutinised. It is also claimed that the charges represent an assault on free speech and could act to undermine the work of human rights’ groups in Thailand.

Would the High Representative / Vice-President raise the case of this EU citizen with the Thai authorities, especially in the light of its potential to affect similar human rights activism in the country?

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