Criminal & Civil Cases Against Andy Hall
On 7 November 2016, human rights defender Andy Hall left Thailand due to fear for his safety and the on-going judicial harassment. His trial has been ongoing for almost four years, and while criminal defamation charges against him were dismissed on 3 November 2016, he has been handed a deferred sentence of three years and still faces two additional charges.
On 3 November 2016, The Supreme Court dismissed criminal defamation charges against Andy Hall. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Court of First Instance in 2014 and the Appeals Court in 2015, due to an unlawful investigation and the fact that the alleged offence was committed in Myanmar.
Andy Hall works in Myanmar and Thailand on migration policy issues, and serves as Global Affairs Advisor to the Migrant Worker Rights Network, a Myanmar migrant worker membership based organization with over 2,500 members, based in Mahachai, Samut Sakorn, Thailand and Yangon, Myanmar. In May 2012, Hall organised Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s globally publicised visit to a migrant community in Mahachai, Samut Sakorn, Thailand. Since 2007, Hall has voluntarily advised and assisted Thailand’s largest independent union confederation, the State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation of Thailand (SERC), as an International Affairs Advisor.
On 7 November 2016, human rights defender Andy Hall left Thailand due to fear for his safety and the on-going judicial harassment. His trial has been ongoing for almost four years, and while one case against him was dismissed on 3 November 2016, he has been handed a deferred sentence of three years and still faces two additional charges.
On 3 November 2016, The Supreme Court dismissed criminal defamation charges against Andy Hall. The Supreme Court's ruling upheld the ruling of the Court of First Instance in 2014 and the Appeals Court in 2015, due to an unlawful investigation and the fact that the alleged offence was committed in Myanmar.
On 6 October 2016, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Thailand. The EP regrets the guilty verdict against Andy Hall, who was sentenced to three years in prison on 20 September, and expresses concern about the judicial process and how it might affect the freedom of human rights defenders to carry out their work.
The resolution calls on the Thai Government to: "take all necessary measures to ensure that the rights – including the right to a fair trial – of Mr Hall and other human rights defenders are respected and protected; to create an enabling environment conducive to the enjoyment of human rights and, specifically, to ensure that the promotion and protection of human rights are not criminalised; to ensure that the country’s defamation laws are compliant with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which it is a state party, to revise the Computer Crime Act, the current wording of which is too vague".
On 20 September 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court found human rights defender Andy Hall guilty of criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges case brought against him by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. The court sentenced Andy Hall to prison for 3 years and fined him 150 000 thai baht (€3856). Imprisonment will be suspended for 3 years. He was originally sentenced to 4 years imprison, but this was reduced to 3 years because he was cooperative during the trial. Andy Hall will appeal the ruling and apply for bail. After the verdict today the court has immediately revoked its order to restrict Andy Hall’s travel in and out of Thailand and returned his passport.
The criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act verdict relates to one of four sets of complaints filed by the pineapple processing company, Natural Fruit Company Ltd, against the human rights defender. The company submitted the complaints following the publication and dissemination of a report 'Cheap Has a High Price' by Finnish NGO Finnwatch in early 2013. In October 2014, the Prakanong Court in Bangkok dismissed another criminal defamation case brought by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall on the grounds of a flawed prosecution that was in breach of the Thai Criminal Procedure Law. Appeals in this case, submitted by both Natural Fruit and Thailand's Attorney General, are currently being considered by Thailand's Supreme Court after the Appeals Court threw out an initial appeal in September 2015.
In addition to the two criminal cases, Natural Fruit has also filed two civil claims for damages against Andy Hall totalling 400 million baht (approximately 10 million euros). These cases have been but on hold until the corresponding criminal cases have been concluded.
Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the judicial harassment against human rights defender Andy Hall, which it believes to be directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate work as a migrant rights and labour rights defender in Thailand.
On 13 January 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court confiscated the passport of British human rights defender Mr Andy Hall and imposed a travel ban on him.
The decision prevents the human rights defender from leaving Thailand without permission before a final judgement in the ongoing case against him is made by the Court.
Since February 2013, the Thai pineapple exporter Natural Fruit Company Ltd has initiated four criminal and civil suits against the human rights defender as a result of his contribution to a 2013 report by Finnwatch, which documented serious human rights violations at the company's production facilities.
The decision to confiscate Andy Hall's passport and place him under a travel ban was made on 13 January 2016, after he was granted temporary bail at a cost of 300 000 baht (approx. €7600) by the Bangkok South Criminal Court, pending trial on charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes. The decision forbids the human rights defender from leaving Thailand, unless special permission is granted on a case by case basis. On 18 January 2016, Andy Hall will be formally indicted in the case. If found guilty the human rights defender will face a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. The full criminal trial on the above charges is expected to commence later in 2016.
On 18 September 2015, the Appeal Court in Bangkok ruled in favour of human rights defender Mr Andy Hall. The Court dismissed the appeal filed by the Attorney General and the pineapple exporting company Natural Fruit Company Ltd, which accused the human rights defender of defamation.
This case is now officially closed, but there are other three pending cases against Hall, including one criminal, which was accepted by the Bangkok South Criminal Court on 24 August 2015. The hearing on this case, involving charges of computer crimes and defamation, will take place on 19 October 2015. If found guilty, the human rights defender may face up to seven years imprisonment.
On 29 October 2014, the Prakanong Court in Bangkok dismissed criminal defamation charges brought against the human rights defender. During the trial, a former employee of the pineapple company testified that the factory violated the law by hiring children who were below the legal minimum work age and by paying extremely low salaries to its workers, which fall far below minimum wage. The court hearings confirmed the working rights violations committed by the company, as were revealed and reported by the human rights defender.
On 24 August 2015, the Bangkok South Criminal Court accepted the criminal charges against human rights defender, Mr Andy Hall. He is accused by Natural Fruit Company Ltd of defamation and computer crimes.
On 24 August 2015, the Bangkok South Criminal Court indicted the human rights defender in a criminal defamation and computer crimes act case, which could carry a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment. He is awaiting a summons to appear before the court, when it will be decided whether he shall be held in pre-trial detention, in which case he will be given an opportunity to seek release on bail.
This is one of four complaints which have been filed by the pineapple processing company, Natural Fruit Company Ltd, against the human rights defender. The company submitted the complaints following the publication and dissemination of a report 'Cheap Has a High Price' by Finnish NGO Finnwatch in early 2013. Andy Hall conducted interviews with the workers of the Natural Fruit Company Ltd. factory and contributed to the research, highlighting labour rights violations at the plant. Prior to the publication of the report, Finnwatch offered the company an opportunity to comment on the research findings. However, the company refused to do so.
The Prakanong Court in Bangkok heard the first criminal defamation case against the human rights defender in 2014, however, the court dismissed the charges. The Office of the Attorney General has appealed the decision, urging the case to be reopened. A decision on this appeal is expected on 25 September 2015. Furthermore, Natural Fruit Company Ltd has filed two civil defamation cases against Andy Hall, with the company claiming damages amounting to 400,000,000 baht (approximately 9,5 million Euro).
On 29 October 2014 the Prakanong Court in Bangkok dismissed criminal defamation charges brought against human rights defender Mr Andy Hall by Natural Fruit Company Ltd, a pineapple exporting company.
Natural Fruit Company has initiated several criminal and civil suits against Andy Hall since February 2013 as a result of his contribution to the 2013 Finnwatch report, which uncovered serious human rights violations at the company's production facilities. Other proceedings, however, remain pending.
The Prakanong Court in Bangkok ruled to dismiss the defamation charges against the human rights defender under section 120 of Thailand's criminal procedure code, which refers to unlawful interrogation procedures. During the trial the court heard from a former employee of Natural Fruit Company who testified that the factory violated the law by hiring children who were below the legal minimum work age and by paying extremely low salaries to its workers, which fall far below minimum wage. It is believed that the recent court hearings can be considered additional confirmation of working rights violations committed by the company, as were revealed and reported by the human rights defender.
Though the Prakanong Court dismissed these particular charges against Andy Hall, this is just the first of four cases filed against the human rights defender by the company. The next of these cases is scheduled to begin on 30 October 2014 at Nakhon Pathom Court in Thailand. In that particular case, the company filed a civil law suit against the human rights defender accusing him of defamation and asking for $10 million in compensation. The third case, involving computer crimes and separate criminal defamation charges, is scheduled for 17 November 2014 at the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court. The dates for a fourth trial, a $4 million civil law suit, has not yet been confirmed.
If the human rights defender is found guilty of the additional criminal and civil charges, he may face up to seven years imprisonment as well as millions of dollars in fines.
On 18 June 2014, migrant and labour rights defender Mr Andy Hall had his passport confiscated and was informed that he is unable to travel outside the country without court approval. The travel ban is to last until the resolution of the trials against the human right defender, which is likely to take several years. The order came after Andy Hall, who resides in Burma, was detained for two hours following a hearing of the charges against him. The Prakanong District Court, acting on a case forwarded by Thailand’s Attorney General, heard the charges against the human rights defender and agreed to receive the cases, including a new complaint of criminal defamation. The Natural Fruit Company Ltd. has accused the human rights defender of two counts of criminal defamation, a charge of civil defamation and a charge of broadcasting false statements under Criminal Code sections 326, 328 and 332 and sections 3 and 4 of the Computer Crimes Act 2007. If found guilty in the civil defamation case, Andy Hall faces being ordered to pay damages requested by the Natural Fruit Company of more than 300 million Baht (approx €7.7 million). Regarding the criminal prosecutions, Hall faces imprisonment for up to 7 years per count and fines ranging between 20,000 Baht (€510) and 200,000 Baht (approx €5,100). The complaints follow the publication of a report in January 2013 that Andy Hall co-authored and researched entitled 'Cheap has a high price: Responsibility problems relating to international private label products and food production in Thailand,' and the production of an Al Jazeera video report on the findings. Published by Finnish non-profit organisation Finnwatch, the report investigated the production and labour practices of private label juices sold in Finland, including the Natural Fruit Company. Based on secret testimony taken from employees, the report found that the company had allegedly committed serious labour and human rights violations, in particular against migrant and irregular workers.
On the evening of 28 September 2013, human rights defender and migrant rights activist Mr Andy Hall went to Bangkok's Bang Na Police Station to hear an additional complaint lodged against him by Natural Fruit Company Limited.
According to the document prepared by the Bang Na police station and seen by Front Line Defenders, Natural Fruit Company filed a complaint with the police accusing the human rights defender of broadcasting false information against the company. The company made reference to a video hosted on YouTube entitled “Migrants work in poor conditions in Thailand”, which features Andy Hall's research and interviews regarding alleged labour rights violations committed against Burmese migrant workers in the Natural Fruit Company's factory.
Two separate complaints had earlier been filed against the human rights defender in February 2013, for more information please see the original urgent appeal dated 26 February 2013.
According to Thai law, upon receipt of a complaint the police must draft a document which will be signed by the defendant as an acknowledgement of the complaint filed against him/her, the identity of the complainant as well as the grounds on which the complaint is based.
Front Line Defenders is very concerned that the document prepared by Police Lieutenant Boonrlai Chaitip, Investigating officer at the Bang Na police station – seen by Front Line Defenders – contained a clause stating that the defendant confessed committing the acts described therein. Andy Hall is English-speaker, the document was drafted in Thai and the police did not provide a translator to the human rights defender.
On 22 February 2013, human rights defender Mr Andy Hall was informed that a criminal lawsuit had been lodged against him, at Nakhon Prathom court on 14 February 2013. The case is based on a complaint filed by the Thai fruit processor Natural Fruit Company Limited in Pranburi Prachuapkirikhan Province.
Andy Hall was informed by a European journalist of the existence of the defamation lawsuit initiated against him. The human rights defender is accused of defaming and damaging the company by “broadcasting false statements to public media”, following the publication of a report in January 2013 which he co-authored and researched. A trial date has reportedly been set for 10 April 2013, while evidence would be heard on 28 April. If convicted, Andy Hall faces a fine of 300 million Baht (approx €7.7 million).
In additional to the lawsuit above, a lawsuit was lodged against Andy Hall on the criminal charge of broadcasting false statements based on a complaint filed by the Natural Fruit Company. If found guilty under these charges, the human rights defender could be imprisoned for a maximum of 2 years, with an additional fine of 200,000 Baht (approx €5,100).
Established in 2001, the Natural Fruit Company processes canned and concentrate pineapple, as well as other canned fruit products. In January 2013, a report entitled “Cheap has a high price: Responsibility problems relating to international private label products and food production in Thailand” was published by Finnwatch, a Finnish non-profit organisation that studies the responsibility of global business.
The report investigated the production practices of private label juices sold in Finland, including the Natural Fruit Company. Andy Hall was lead researcher of the report, working at the time as Associate Researcher at Mahidol University in Thailand.
Based on testimony taken in November 2012 from employees working in various departments of the company's Pranburi plant in Pranburi Prachuapkirikhan Province, the report found that the Natural Fruit Company had committed serious labour and human rights violations against its workers, in particular against migrant and irregular workers, as well as other reportedly illegal activities. The interviews were carried out in secret, as workers reportedly feared acts of reprisal following their participation in the research.
Despite being approached by Finnwatch and Andy Hall on numerous occasions, the Natural Fruit Company did not agree to meet with the researchers or contribute to the report. The only contact Andy Hall had with the company was during the launch of the report at the offices of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT), when an individual who introduced himself as a representative of the Natural Fruit Company approached him. Upon the initial release of the report's findings in December 2012, Finnwatch sent communications to the authorities of Finland, the European Union and Thailand, as well as several labour and human rights organisations.