Thailand: Acquittal and continuing judicial harassment of Mr. Andy Hall

23/07/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
THA 003 / 0815 / OBS 067.6
Acquittal /
Judicial harassment
Thailand
July 23, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the acquittal and continuing judicial harassment of Mr. Andy Hall [1] , a migrant workers’ rights defender, following complaints brought by Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit over his contribution to a report published by the Finnish NGO Finnwatch and a related interview to the international news network Al-Jazeera. The report documented serious labour rights abuses committed by Natural Fruit.

According to the information received, on June 30, 2020, the Supreme Court of Thailand acquitted Mr. Andy Hall of criminal defamation and computer crimes offences, upholding the Court of Appeals’ acquittal issued in May 2018 (see background information, Case 1).

However, on July 13, 2020, the Nakhon Pathom Civil Court asserted jurisdiction to rule on a 300 million Thai baht (approximately 8.2 million Euros) civil defamation lawsuit brought by Natural Fruit against Mr. Hall in 2013, based on the same facts cited in the above-mentioned criminal case. The court had postponed consideration in this case waiting for the final verdict in the criminal case to be reached (see background information, Case 2). Hearings have been set for October 27 to 29, 2020.

The Observatory welcomes the acquittal of Mr. Andy Hall but recalls that he should never have been prosecuted in the first place as the multiple lawsuits against him only aim at preventing him from exercising his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory denounces the latest act of judicial harassment against Mr. Andy Hall and calls upon the Thai authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him.

The Observatory recalls that on April 4, 2018, at the end of its 10-day visit to Thailand, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Business and Human Rights issued a statement that urged the Thai government to “ensure that defamation cases are not used by businesses as a tool to undermine legitimate rights and freedoms of affected rights holders, [civil society organizations] and human rights defenders.” [2]

On March 12, 2020, a group of UN human rights experts, including the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, condemned the “continued misuse of judicial processes” by another Thai company, Thammakaset, to harass and silence human rights defenders. [3]

Background information:

Since February 2013, the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit has filed four criminal and civil lawsuits [4] against Mr. Andy Hall for defamation and computer crimes in relation to Mr. Hall’s contribution to a report by the Finnish NGO Finnwatch that alleged serious labour rights abuses at the company’s factory in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province and in relation to an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera regarding the same report. Published in January 2013, the report, “Cheap has a high price: Responsibility problems relating to international private label products and food production in Thailand” [5] , gathered worker interviews in order to document labour rights violations at the factory, including allegations of child labour, underpayment of wages, confiscation of migrant workers’ travel and work documents, and failure to provide legally mandated paid sick days, holidays, and leave.

On October 29, 2014, the Phra Khanong Provincial Court in Bangkok dismissed the criminal defamation case (Case 3) related to the Al-Jazeera interview [6], due to unlawful interrogation process of Mr. Hall under Article 120 of the Criminal Procedure Code [7]. However, the Office of the Attorney General subsequently appealed the court’s dismissal of the case. On September 18, 2015, the Court of Appeals upheld the Phra Khanong Provincial Court’s dismissal of the case. In January 2016, the Attorney General and Natural Fruit submitted their appeals on the case to the Supreme Court which, on November 3, 2016, dismissed the criminal defamation charges.

In September 2014, Natural Fruit filed a 100 million Thai baht (approximately 2.8 million Euros) civil defamation lawsuit against Mr. Hall, related to the Al-Jazeera interview (Case 4). The first hearing on this case took place on November 21, 2014, at the Phra Khanong Provincial Court, and further hearings followed in May and November 2015 and in January and April 2016. In August 2017, following an appeal filed by Natural Fruit, the Court of Appeals ordered the Phra Khanong Court to accept jurisdiction and hear the case in full. The witness examination hearings for the case concluded in February 2018.

On March 26, 2018, the Phra Khanong Provincial Court ordered Mr. Hall to pay 10 million Thai baht (approximately 281,000 Euros) in damages to the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit. The Court also ordered Mr. Hall to pay 10,000 Thai baht (approximately 281 Euros) for the plaintiff’s lawyer and the court fees, in addition to 7.5% interest from the date of filing this case. Mr. Hall appealed this decision on September 6, 2018. On May 22, 2019, the Court of Appeals upheld the Phra Khanong Court’s verdict.

On January 18, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court indicted Mr. Hall under Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act and Article 328 (‘libel’) of the Thai Criminal Code (Case 1). Ahead of the indictment, on January 13, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court confiscated Mr. Hall’s passport and issued a travel ban against him. The order was handed down following a temporary bail [8] request submission. Mr. Hall was prohibited from leaving Thailand until the court ruled on the case unless permission was granted (permission would have been granted on a case-by-case basis). On September 20, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court revoked the order restricting Mr. Hall’s travel and returned his passport.

On September 20, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court handed down a four-year sentence against Mr. Hall and a fine of 200,000 Thai baht (about 5,160 Euros), on criminal defamation and computer crimes charges. The court reduced the sentence to three years, with a two-year suspended term and a fine of about 150,000 Thai baht (3,870 Euros).

In 2013, Natural Fruit filed a 300 million-Thai Baht (approximately 8.2 million Euros) civil defamation lawsuit against Mr. Hall with the Nakhon Pathom Civil Court following the publication of the Finnwatch report (Case 2). After negotiations failed on October 30, 2014, the Nakhon Pathom Court postponed consideration of this case pending a verdict in the criminal defamation and computer crimes case (Case 1).

On November 7, 2016, Mr. Hall left Thailand fearing for his safety amid legal threats and harassment from Natural Fruit company and another criminal complaint filed against him by the poultry company Thammakaset Co., Ltd. in connection with a separate case [9].

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Andy Hall and all other human rights defenders targeted by companies in Thailand;

ii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals.

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the ICCPR.

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Articles 1, and 12.

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments to which Thailand is a State party.

Addresses:

• Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
• Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th
• Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
• Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702
• Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th
• H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
• Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, July 23, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

___

[1] Andy Hall is a British national who lived in Thailand for 11 years before leaving the country in November 2016 because of judicial harassment. He is a researcher on migration issues in Southeast Asia and now lives in Nepal, where he continues his human rights work.
[2] See https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Page/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23095&LangID=E
[3] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25714&LangID=E
[4] The first case relates to criminal defamation for the publication of the report (Case 1); the second for civil defamation for the publication of the report (Case 2); the third relates to criminal defamation for the Al-Jazeera interview (Case 3); and the fourth for civil defamation for the interview (Case 4). See also Finnwatch “Q&A: Criminal and Civil Prosecutions - Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall”, updated on May 22, 2019: https://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May2019_FINAL.pdf
[5] See : http://www.finnwatch.org/en/news/180-serious-human-rights-violations-behind-european-food-brands
[6] The case concerned an interview Andy Hall gave to Al-Jazeera in Myanmar.
[7] See the Observatory’s Joint Press Release, published on July 20, 2015, and Joint Open Letter, published on August 8, 2014.
[8] The bail was equivalent to 300,000 Thai Baht (approximately 7,740 Euros).
[9] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 005 / 1118 / OBS 137, published on November 27, 2018.

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