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.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing of Mr. Andy Hall, a migrant labour rights researcher.
According to the information received, on September 20, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court handed down a four-year sentence against Mr. Andy Hall and a fine of 200,000 Thai Baht (about 5,160Euros), 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).
The case dates back to February 2013 when the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit brought charges against Mr. Hall for his contribution to a report published by Finnish NGO Finnwatch, which alleged serious labour rights abuses by Natural Fruit (see background information).
Mr. Hall, who has paid the fine, has indicated that he will appeal the ruling.
This case is only one of four criminal and civil lawsuits filed by Natural Fruit against Mr. Hall. Another three cases are still pending.
The Observatory firmly condemns the sentencing and ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Andy Hall, as it clearly aims at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities, and calls upon the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against him.
Since February 2013, the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit has filed four criminal and civil lawsuits against Mr. 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, gathered worker interviews in order to document labour rights violations at the factory, including 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 dismissed the criminal defamation cases related to the Al-Jazeera interview , due to Mr. Hall’s unlawful interrogation process under Article 120 of the Criminal Procedure Code . 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 December 2015, Natural Fruit and the Attorney General were given permission by the Attorney General to appeal to the Supreme Court. In January 2016, the Attorney General and Natural Fruit submitted their appeals on the case to the Supreme Court. Mr. Hall’s legal team responded to the appeal, and the appeal decision verdict by the Supreme Court remains pending. If convicted in this case, Mr. Hall could face up to one-year imprisonment and a fine (Case 3).
Natural Fruit filed a 300 million Thai Baht civil defamation lawsuit against Mr. Hall following the publication of the Finnwatch report case (Case 2). Negotiations between the two parties failed on October 30, 2014, following which the Nakhon Pathom Court postponed consideration of this case until a verdict had been reached in the criminal defamation and computer crimes case.
In September 2014, Natural Fruit also filed a 100 million Thai Baht 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. Mr. Hall submitted his defence, and further hearings followed in May/November 2015 and January/April 2016. This case was then also postponed pending a final decision in the appeal to the Supreme Court in the criminal defamation case related to the interview.
With regard to the criminal case that led to his conviction on September 20, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court indicted Mr. Hall on January 18, 2016 under Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act and Article 328 (libel) of the 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  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.
Please write to the Thai authorities asking them to:
i. Drop all charges against Mr. Andy Hall and put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against him and against all human rights defenders in Thailand;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Andy Hall,as well as that of all human rights defenders in Thailand;
iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.
. Prime Minister of Thailand, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
· Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Don Pramudwinai, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: email@example.com
· Minister of Justice of Thailand, Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
· Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: email@example.com
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.