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Thailand
23.05.19
Urgent Interventions

Ongoing judicial harassment of migrant worker rights defender Andy Hall

Newinformation

THA 003 / 0815 / OBS 067.5

Judicialharassment

Thailand
May 23
, 2019


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a jointpartnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), hasreceived new information and requests your urgent intervention in the followingsituation in Thailand.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoingjudicial harassment of Mr. Andy Hall[1],a migrant worker rights defender, following complaints brought by Thaipineapple processing company Natural Fruit for an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera about labour rights abuses.

According to the information received, on May 22, 2019, the Phra KhanongCourt in Bangkok read a Court of Appeals’ verdict on Mr. Hall’s appeal against a2018 10 million-Thai Baht (approximately 281,000 Euros) civil defamation fine.The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling, which was issued on March 26, 2018. Mr. Hall said hewould appeal the decision to Thailand’s Supreme Court but added that heremained open to conciliation with Natural Fruit to seek to end the company’slitigation against him.

This case dates back toFebruary 2013, when Natural Fruit filed complaints against Mr. Hall forhis contribution to a report published by Finnish non-governmental organisationFinnwatch which alleged serious labour rights abuses by Natural Fruit and foran interview he gave to Al-Jazeeraregarding the same report (see background information). A total of fourcriminal and civil lawsuits[2]have been filed by Natural Fruit company against Mr. Hall (see backgroundinformation).

The Observatoryfirmly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Hall, as itclearly aims at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities and callsupon the Thai authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment, includingat the judicial level, against him.

Background information:

Since February 2013, the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruithas filed four criminal and civil lawsuits against Mr. Andy Hall fordefamation and computer crimes in relation to Mr. Hall’s contribution to areport by the Finnish NGO Finnwatch that alleged serious labour rights abusesat the company’s factory in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province and in relation to aninterview he gave to Al-Jazeeraregarding the same report. Published in January 2013, the report, “Cheap has ahigh price: Responsibility problems relating to international private labelproducts and food production in Thailand”[3], gathered workerinterviews in order to document labour rights violations at the factory,including allegations of child labour, underpayment of wages, confiscation ofmigrant workers’ travel and work documents, and failure to provide legallymandated paid sick days, holidays, and leave.

On October 29, 2014,the Phra Khanong Provincial Court dismissed the criminal defamation case (Case3) related to the Al-Jazeerainterview[4],due to Mr. Hall’s unlawful interrogation process under Article 120 of theCriminal Procedure Code[5].However, the Office of the Attorney General subsequently appealed the court’sdismissal of the case. On September 18, 2015, the Court of Appeals upheld thePhra Khanong Provincial Court’s dismissal of the case. In December 2015,Natural Fruit and the Attorney General were given permission by the AttorneyGeneral to appeal to the Supreme Court. In January 2016, the Attorney Generaland Natural Fruit submitted their appeals on the case to the Supreme Court. Mr. Hall’slegal team responded to the appeal, and on November 3, 2016, the Supreme Courtdismissed the criminal defamation charges.

In September 2014,Natural Fruit also filed a 100 million-Thai baht (approximately 2.8 millionEuros) civil defamation lawsuit against Mr. Hall, related to the Al-Jazeera interview (Case 4). Thefirst hearing on this case took place on November 21, 2014, at the Phra KhanongProvincial Court. Mr. Hall submitted his defence, and further hearingsfollowed in May/November 2015 and January/April 2016. This case was then alsopostponed pending a final decision in the appeal to the Supreme Court in thecriminal defamation case related to the interview. In August 2017, following anappeal filed by Natural Fruit, the Court of Appeals ordered the Phra KhanongCourt to accept jurisdiction and hear the case in full. The hearing ofwitnesses for the reopened case concluded in February 2018.

On January 18, 2016,the Bangkok South Criminal Court indicted Mr. Hall under Article 14(1) ofthe 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 Courtconfiscated Mr. Hall’s passport and issued a travel ban against him. Theorder was handed down following a temporary bail[6]request submission. Mr. Hall was prohibited from leaving Thailand untilthe court ruled on the case unless permission was granted (permission wouldhave been granted on a case-by-case basis). On September 20, 2016, the BangkokSouth Criminal Court revoked the order restricting Mr. Hall’s travel andreturned his passport.

On September 20, 2016,the Bangkok South Criminal Court handed down a four-year sentence againstMr. Hall and a fine of 200,000 Thai Baht (about 5,160 Euros), on “criminaldefamation” and “computer crimes” charges. The court reduced the sentence tothree years, with a two-year suspended term and a fine of about 150,000 ThaiBaht (3,870 Euros).

Natural Fruit filed a300 million-Thai Baht (approximately 8.4 million Euros) civil defamationlawsuit against Mr. Hall following the publication of the Finnwatch reportcase (Case 2). Negotiations between the two parties failed on October 30, 2014,following which the Nakhon Pathom Court postponed consideration of this caseuntil a verdict had been reached in the criminal defamation and computer crimescase.

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

On March 26, 2018, the Phra Khanong Provincial Court in Bangkok orderedMr. Hall to pay 10 million Thai Baht (approximately 281,000 Euros) indamages to the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit. The Court alsoordered Mr. Hall to pay 10,000 Thai Baht (approximately 281 Euros) for theplaintiff’s lawyer and the court fees, in addition to 7.5% interest from thedate of filing this case. Mr. Hall appealed this decision on September 6, 2018.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Put anend to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr.Andy Hall, as well as all human rights defenders in Thailand;

ii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders inThailand are able to carry out their legitimate activities without anyhindrance or fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the right tofreedom of opinion and expression of all human rights defenders inThailand;

iv.Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on HumanRights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, inparticular with its Articles 1, and 12;

v. Ensurein all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with international human rights standards and internationalinstruments ratified by Thailand.

Addresses:

· Gen.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 6435320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th

· AirChief Marshal Prajin Juntong, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2953 0503

· PolGen 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 UnitedNations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int

· Embassyof Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 648 30 66; Email:thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

Pleasealso write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respectivecountries.

***

Paris-Geneva, May 23, 2019

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

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 byFIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of thisprogramme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

[1] Andy Hall is a British national who lived inThailand for 11 years before leaving the country in November 2016 because ofjudicial harassment. He is a researcher on migration issues in Southeast Asiaand now lives in Nepal, where he continues his human rights work.

[2] The first case relates to criminal chargesfor the publication of the report (Case 1), the second for civil defamation forthe publication of the report (Case 2), the third relates to criminal chargesfor the interview (Case 3) and the fourth for civil defamation for theinterview (Case 4). See also Finnwatch “Q&A: Criminal and CivilProsecutions - Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall”, updated on May 22, 2019: https://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May2019_FINAL.pdf

[3] http://www.finnwatch.org/en/news/180-serious-human-rights-violations-behind-european-food-brands

[4] The case concerned an interview Andy Hallgave to Al-Jazeera in Myanmar.

[5] See the Observatory’s Joint Press Release,published on July 20, 2015, and Joint Open Letter, published on August 8, 2014.

[6] The bail was equivalent to 300,000 Thai Baht(approximately 7,740 Euros).

[7] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 005 / 1118/ OBS 137, published on November 27, 2018.

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