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23 Apr 2020

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Corporate Legal Accountability Annual Briefing - Defending Defenders: Challenging Malicious Lawsuits in Southeast Asia

Rather than listen and act on the information HRDs share, a growing number of unscrupulous companies turn to the courts to bring lawsuits meant to harass and silence HRDs who criticize them. Over the last five years we have tracked an average increase of 48% per year in judicial harassment of HRDs looking at business activities.

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) are frequently deployed by companies. SLAPPs seek to manipulate the judicial system by masquerading as legitimate legal claims, abusing laws (e.g. on libel / defamation) to target valid and protected speech or protest. SLAPPs can be effective in gagging critics: they take advantage of the prohibitive costs and time that it takes to litigate a case, and can result in prison sentences and other harmful physical, financial and psychological impacts on defenders. As importantly, they have a chilling effect on free expression, disrupt legitimate collective action to defend the rights of workers and communities...

This Annual Briefing focuses on Southeast Asia. The region has become a global hotspot for SLAPPs and other judicial harassment against HRDs...

In order to effectively fight SLAPPs – both in Southeast Asia and globally – we need robust legal frameworks and policies that prevent companies from filing SLAPPs in the first place and allow courts to identify, call out and dismiss them as soon as they are filed...