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19 Mai 2014

Reports and statements on lawsuits filed by Natural Fruit against researcher and activist Andy Hall for alleged defamation

16 May 2016 update:

Thailand: Migrant rights defender Andy Hall goes on trial for criminal defamation & computer crimes - most serious of multiple charges brought by Natural Fruit

In February 2013, researcher and activist Andy Hall was sued by Thai company Natural Fruit for defamation and violation of Thailand’s Computer Crime Act for allegedly broadcasting false statements to public media. If found guilty, he could face years in prison and fined for up to £6.6 million. The civil and criminal complaints were reportedly based on a report co-authored by Hall for Finnish NGO Finnwatch that alleged child labour, forced labour, and poor working conditions in a canning factory run by Natural Fruit, where the workers are mostly migrants from Myanmar.

The judicial proceedings have been marked by a series of postponements, the latest one on September 13, resetting the court date to November 11.

More recently, another case was filed by the same company against Hall. The third case is for alleged defamation for posting videos online by Finnwatch and Aljazeera. Hall said he was “nearly tricked” into signing a confession that allegations he made against the company were untrue, when he presented himself to the Bang Na police station in Thailand for questioning related to the latest complaint. Hall has filed a complaint with the Royal Thai Police accusing the Bang Na police of malfeasance in pressuring him to sign a confession.

UN communications
On April 26, 2013, a communication was sent by five United Nations Special Procedures mandates to the Thai Government, expressing concern that the charges against Hall may be the result of his legitimate and peaceful actions gathering and publishing evidence of facts which, if accurate, would amount to serious human rights violations that warrant investigation by the authorities. They also raised concern that the charges may have a chilling effect on other human rights defenders and civil society activists working to expose human rights violations perpetrated by businesses. The communication was signed by the following:
-       Pavel Sulyandziga, Working Group on the issue of Human Rights and Transnational corporations and other business enterprises
-       Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression 
-       Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders 
-       François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants 
-       Joy Ezeilo, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children 

The Permanent Mission of Thailand to Geneva responded, saying that the case is being considered by the Thai judicial system, which gives Natural Fruit the right to file the case, and Hall the right to defend himself.

Statements of support
Since the cases were filed against Hall, a number of individuals and groups have issued petitions and statements of support for him, including the following:
EarthRights International
Finnwatch (in Finnish)
Front Line Defenders
Human Rights Watch
International Trade Union Confederation
[video] Member of European Parliament David Martin
Member of European Parliament Mitro Repo (Answer by Mr. Karl De Gucht on behalf of the Commission)
Member of European Parliament Sari Essayah (Answer by Miss Catherine Ashton on behalf of the Commission)
Members of European Parliament Satu Hassi and Barbara Lochbihler
Migrant Forum in Asia
State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation
UNI Global Union  

- "Andy Hall was formally detained and released on bail", Finnwatch, 18 June 2014
- “Thai Industry Commits to Support Bail Out”, Finnwatch, 16 June 2014
- “Finnwatch Researcher Andy Hall to Face Public Prosecutor on 18th June 2014”, Finnwatch, 19 May 2014

- "Thailand: Appeal court upholds dismissal of one of several cases against researcher Andy Hall; case closed", 18 Sept 2015

- More updates below.