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FINNWATCH PRESS RELEASE 31st MAY 2018: Thai Appeals Court rules in favour of Andy Hall quashing criminal conviction

FINNWATCH PRESS RELEASE 31st MAY 2018: Thai Appeals Court rules in favour of Andy Hall quashing criminal conviction

Bangkok South Criminal Court today read the verdict of Thailand’s Appeals Court ruling in favour of Andy Hall in a criminal prosecution by Natural Fruit Company Ltd which previously in 2016 saw Hall handed a suspended custodial prison sentence and fine.

According to Andy Hall’s legal team the Appeals Court accepted all of the points made in Hall’s appeal in their entirety. The Appeals Court ruled that Hall had not acted unlawfully according to the prosecution’s accusations and promptly pronounced him acquitted of all the charges filed against him. The Court also ruled further that, based on all the evidence before it, Hall had indeed interviewed migrant workers from Natural Fruit’s factory and there was the real possibility of labour rights violations against migrant workers in the factory, as Finnwatch had alleged in a 2013 report.

In today’s landmark ruling, Thailand’s Appeals Court also importantly ruled that Finnwatch and Andy Hall’s research was in the public interest for the benefit of consumers. In addition, the Court noted importantly that given the Thai Government’s 2017 amendments to Thailand’s notorious Computer Crimes Act, the computer crimes law retrospectively could not be used to prosecute Andy Hall alongside a criminal defamation prosecution.

“The Appeals Court’s decision to acquit Andy Hall is much welcome. It is also a much-needed acknowledgement by Thailand’s justice system that Hall’s work – researching allegations of companies abuse of human rights of migrant workers –  is legitimate, not a crime and in the public interest,” said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch.

Andy Hall did not attend today’s hearing but was represented in Court by his Thai legal defence team. The Bangkok South Criminal Court was expected to read the Appeal’s Court verdict on 24th April 2018 but the hearing was postponed as Hall was not in attendance. Instead, the Court ordered for issuance of an arrest warrant for Hall with a view to ensuring his attendance. Following this, Hall’s UK legal defence team submitted a pre-emptive submission to Interpol requesting it not respond affirmatively on human rights ground to any Thai request to arrest Hall concerning this case. Hall left Thailand at the end of 2016, making clear his intention not to return unless judicial harassment against him ceased.

The Appeals Court decision today overturns the decision by a first instance court, the Bangkok South Criminal Court, which on 20th September 2016 sentenced Andy Hall to four years’ imprisonment, reduced by one year and suspended by two years and ordered him to pay a fine of 200,000 baht, reduced to 150,000 baht, following his conviction on charges of criminal defamation and Computer Crimes. The Appeals Court’s decision can be further appealed to Thailand’s Supreme Court by Natural Fruit or Andy Hall.

These private criminal proceedings against Hall were initiated by Thai pineapple company Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. in 2013. This specific prosecution relates to interviews Hall conducted with migrant workers of Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. for the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price, published in 2013. Worker interviewees’ testimonies detailed allegations of violations of labour and human rights at the Natural Fruit plant in Southern Thailand.

Last month, another Thai court ordered Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht (260 000 euros) in

damages to Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. following his conviction in a separate civil defamation

case. Hall’s legal team is now appealing this decision after raising 12, 000 euros needed to submit the appeal. Altogether Natural Fruit has filed four criminal and civil cases against Hall since 2013 and judicial harassment against the activist seems not to have abated.

On 17th May 2018, six UN human rights experts issued a joint public statement criticising the use of defamation charges to silence Andy Hall and other human rights defenders who report on business-related human rights abuse in Thailand.

For more information on this and the other three criminal and civil cases filed by Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. against Andy Hall, please see Finnwatch Q&A document, last updated on 31st May 2018, available at http://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May312018.pdf?utm_source=Andyn+kontaktilista&utm_campaign=f01a295f04-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_23_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_16dcaaec6c-f01a295f04-200420821 and www.andyjhall.wordpress.com

Contact:

Sonja Vartiala

Executive Director, Finnwatch

+358(0)445687465

sonja.vartiala (at) finnwatch.org

Nakhon Chomphuchat

Lawyer to Andy Hall

+66(0)818473086

nakhonct (at) gmail.com

Andy Hall

andyjhall1979 (at) gmail.com

+977 (0) 9823486634

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‪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.

“Was Continue reading

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