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Thai court indicts Andy Hall despite NGOs calls to drop charges brought by Natural Fruit; buyers approached

Andy Hall with supporters and media on first day of trial

In September 2014, British labour rights activist and researcher Andy Hall faced trial for one of six criminal and civil cases under Thailand’s defamation laws and Computer Crimes Act, brought by pineapple processing company Natural Fruit. The company started filing the cases in February 2013, after Hall exposed abuses in its factories through a report published by NGO Finnwatch called “Cheap Has a High Price”. The alleged abuses included violence against employees, forced overtime, use of underage labour, and confiscation of passports of Myanmar migrant workers. The criminal charges carry a maximum of eight years in prison, and civil damages could total over $10 million. The first criminal defamation case was dismissed in October 2014 due to unlawful interrogation process.

The final preliminary hearing of the first in the series of criminal cases was scheduled for July 20, but the court decided to postpone the decision until August 24, amid calls on international NGOs and trade unions to drop charges. During the week leading to the 24 August indictment hearing, Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) joined the international movement in support of Andy Hall and asked its member companies to use their influence and request Natural Fruit and subsidiaries to drop the charges. Walk Free lanched a petition asking to drop the charges against Andy Hall. On 19 August, a coalition of 44 human rights and labour organizations, including Business & Human Rights Resource Centre sent a joint letter to the Thai Prime Minister asking for the charges to be dropped.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre also contacted eight US companies that are reported to purchase from Natural Fruit and asked them to provide a statement on the Andy Hall case. We then contacted with the same request six additional buyers based in Australian, Europe and Latin America.

On 24th August, the Bangkok South Criminal Court decided to indict Andy Hall  in the criminal defamation and computer crimes act case.

Andy Hall blog

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14 September 2015

Additional buyers invited to provide a statement on Andy Hall case

Author: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted eight US companies that are reported to purchase from Natural Fruit and asked them to provide a statement on the Andy Hall case.

  • CV-Trading (Chile) responded
  • John Bull (Australia) & Sandhurst Fine Foods (Australia) did not provide a statement
  • Alceda (Mexico),Iska (Germany) (part of Schroeder) & St Mamet Conserves (France) (part of of Conserves Italia)have not provided a statement yet

Read the full post here

24 August 2015

Thai court's decision to indict Andy Hall "a blow to human rights", says Finnwatch

Author: Finnwatch

"Thai court's decision to indict migrants' rights activist a blow to human rights", 24 Aug 2015

The Bangkok South Criminal Court decided...on...24 August to  indict migrants' rights researcher and human rights defender Andy Hall in a criminal defamation and computer crimes act case filed against him by...Natural Fruit Company...The Bangkok South Criminal Court had an opportunity to put an end to a saga of intimidation already lasting 30-months aimed at nothing but gagging a human rights defender. Regrettably the Court chose instead to press on with a trial of these unfounded charges, said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch. The criminal defamation and computer crimes act case, to which today's decision to indict relates to, is the most severe of all the cases filed against Andy Hall, and carries a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. Following todays decision, Andy Hall is expected to be summoned to appear at the court. He will then be detained awaiting trial. He will have an opportunity to seek release on bail.

Download the full document here

21 August 2015

44 NGOs send joint letter to Thai Prime Minister, ask to withdraw charges against Andy Hall

Author: Coalition of 44 human rights and labour organizations

"Letter to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha regarding prosecution of Andy Hall", 19 Aug 2015

We, a coalition of international labor and human rights organizations...wish to convey our concern about the prosecution of migrant and worker rights defender Andy Hall...For more than a year, we have called for the unjust and abusive charges against Mr. Hall to be withdrawn...Persecuting researchers and whistle-blowing activists who reveal cases of labor exploitation is hardly a recipe for effective work against human trafficking. If Thailand is serious about improving its record in combatting human trafficking and proving it takes its human rights obligations seriously, you should act to ensure that such human rights defenders are protected against retaliation, including judicial harassment. We were particularly shocked and dismayed by the action of the Office of the Attorney General in January to appeal the court’s dismissal of the first case against Mr. Hall, which had been thrown out on October 29th, 2014 due to an unlawful interrogation...Officials within your government have repeatedly stated to NGOs in various meetings on this matter that the Thai government is an impartial observer, unable to interfere as the case moves through the judicial system, but appealing this case seems punitive and unnecessary. We call on your government to withdraw its appeal before a decision is issued on September 25th, 2015. Further prosecution of the charges against Mr. Hall will damage Thailand’s international image and violate Thailand’s obligations under international law...The best way to bring an end to this negative publicity and fulfill Thailand’s obligations under international law is to ensure that Andy Hall is released from all charges stemming from his human rights work, and to, “cease prosecuting criminal defamation cases against researchers or journalists who report on human trafficking,” in accordance with recommendations from the TIP Report...We hope that the government of the Kingdom of Thailand will protect the right to freedom of speech and not curtail legitimate research that documents when companies mistreat workers and violate labor laws...

Read the full post here

21 August 2015

US buyers invited to provide statements on Andy Hall case

Author: Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted eight US companies that are reported to purchase from Natural Fruit and asked them to provide a statement on the Andy Hall case.

  • J. A. Kirsch, Port Royal Sales, and Supervalu International responded.
  • Acme Food Sales, Anchana International, Nemco Food Trading, and Purcell International Schreiber Foods International did not provide a statement.

Read the full post here

21 August 2015

Walk Free launches petition to drop charges against Andy Hall

Author: Walk Free

"Drop the charges against Andy Hall now" 20 Aug 2015

Human rights activist Andy Hall will soon find out if he faces time in prison for reporting on labour rights abuses in the Thai pineapple industry. In 2013 a report including some of his research was published which included allegations of worker abuse and slavery-like practices in the Natural Fruit factory, a Thai company that processes pineapples and supplies retailers around the world. Instead of looking into the allegations, Natural Fruit targeted Andy. He was hauled into court on charges of computer crime and criminal defamation. Despite an international outcry, Natural Fruit have not backed down. We now need to call on the Thai government to do the right thing and ensure that all charges against Andy Hall are dropped. The Thai authorities are already facing global scrutiny for not doing enough to protect workers from abuse — the latest US Trafficking in Persons report gives Thailand the lowest score for action to tackle trafficking. We have just a few days to make a difference in this case. Please show your support for Andy and migrant workers that remain vulnerable to modern slavery in Thailand: take action to demand that these charges are dropped now.

Read the full post here

18 August 2015

BSCI asks member companies to request Natural Fruit to drop charges against Andy Hall

Author: Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI)

"BSCI and its Participants Take Action in Support of Andy Hall", 18 Aug 2015

BSCI has joined an international movement in support of human rights activist Andy Hall by asking its participating companies to use their influence and request Natural Fruit Co. and subsidiaries to drop the charges against Mr. Hall...BSCI believes that cooperation, and not litigation, is the solution and that the right to freedom of speech should be respected and recognised to all organisations, in particular those working to protect human rights and improve labour conditions. When the trial began in September 2014, BSCI called on Natural Fruit to drop its court case and pursue more constructive means of resolving issues with stakeholders, as well as concrete efforts to improve working conditions. Since the publication of Mr. Hall’s 2013 report by Finnwatch...BSCI and its participants have engaged in positive dialogue with this organisation in order to take steps towards addressing the labour issues identified. Such a valuable relationship with stakeholders and with the actors involved in the supply chain is fundamental to increase transparency around labour issues, build trust and achieve long-term improvements. Building on this long cooperation and in support of Finnwatch’s campaign to stop prosecution of Mr. Hall, BSCI has requested all participants sourcing from Thailand to check their list of suppliers and sub-suppliers and request any subsidiary of Natural Fruit Co. to immediately drop the charges.  BSCI also urged participants to contact any related producer that is a member of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association (TPIA), of which Natural Fruit Co. is President and request that charges be dropped. In the matter of this case, TPIA has previously threatened NGOs with further lawsuits.

Read the full post here

21 July 2015

Human Rights Watch joins calls to drop Andy Hall case

Author: Human Rights Watch

"Thailand: End Case Against Migrant Worker Activist", 19 July 2015

Thai authorities should drop charges against a prominent migrant worker rights activist...The charges violate the free expression rights of the activist, Andy Hall, and undermine his research into labor rights abuses by companies in Thailand...“This prosecution is all about gagging Andy Hall to deter serious reporting about alleged abuses against migrant workers, and about intimidating others who might look closely at Thailand’s corporate supply chains...The government should recognize that freedom to investigate corporate abuses is critical to ensuring compliance and accountability under Thai law and international human rights standards.”..Human Rights Watch believes that criminal defamation laws should be abolished, as criminal penalties are always disproportionate punishments for reputational harm and infringe on free expression. Criminal defamation laws are open to easy abuse, resulting in very harsh consequences, including imprisonment. As repeal of criminal defamation laws in an increasing number of countries has shown, such laws are not necessary to protect reputations.

Read the full post here

21 July 2015

Indictment decision postponed for a month amid intl. calls to drop charges

Author: FreshFruitPortal.com

"Thailand: Natural Fruit v Andy Hall indictment decision adjourned for a month", 

Thailand’s leaders have not succumbed to international pressure to drop the Natural Fruit v Andy Hall case, but an indictment decision has been postponed by the court...[T]he British human rights defender said his lawyer’s team informed him the Bangkok South Criminal Court had adjourned the decision until August 24.

Read the full post here

20 July 2015

30 NGOs & trade unions demand Thai govt. to end harassment of human rights defenders, in run-up to final preliminary hearing in Andy Hall case

Author: Finnwatch & 28 other NGOs and trade unions

"Thailand must end harassment of researchers and human rights defenders", 18 July 2015

Around 30 NGOs and trade unions are demanding Thailand to end harassment of researchers and human rights defenders in the run-up to the final preliminary hearing in a criminal defamation and computer crimes case, brought by Natural Fruit against researcher and activist Andy Hall, on 20th July. The undersigned organisations are also disappointed to learn that Thailand's Attorney General is trying to get another, already dismissed, case against Andy Hall re-opened...Natural Fruit has brought altogether four separate cases against Andy Hall. After...[the] final preliminary hearing on the criminal defamation and computer crimes case, the court will decide whether to indict Andy Hall or not. If the court decides to indict him, Andy Hall will be arrested and detained pending bail. He then faces a trial and if found guilty and convited, up to seven years in prison. 

The undersigned organisations have also written an Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand on the case.

The letter is available here.

Read the full post here

4 November 2014

Thailand: Key migrant worker witness in defamation case against researcher Andy Hall seeks protection against death threats

Author: Alan Morison, PhuketWan

“Defamation Witness Threatened With Death: Thai Officials Asked to Protect Him”, 1 November 2014

A key witness in a defamation case won by the beleagured migrant rights activist Andy Hall…went to police…claiming his life has been threatened. The witness, a migrant worker whose testimony is regarded as swinging the case in Hall's favor, had been granted protection and was leading a new life. Hall and his lawyers believe the people who have been issuing threats somehow managed to track down the man…''Now the British Government has written to Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking for an investigation of the threats to his life,” [Hall said]…It's alleged that the people intimidating the witness were carrying guns when they attended the court hearing and dropped bullets near the witness and his wife.

Read the full post here