Thai Court orders defender Andy Hall's payment of 10 million baht in damages to Natural Fruit co.; companies & business associations express concern

A court in Thailand ordered the British labor rights defender Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht ($321,000) in damages to a company that filed a civil defamation suit after he helped expose alleged human rights violations at its factory. The ruling against Andy Hall was the latest development involving four defamation suits filed by pineapple canning company Natural Fruit, which employed migrant Myanmar workers who claimed the company had abused them and broke labor regulations.

Further information is available in the following pages:

Court finds Andy Hall guilty of defamation; activists say verdict a setback in the fight against modern-day slavery

Thailand: Rights defender Andy Hall goes on trial for criminal defamation & computer crimes

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

Thailand: Public support for activist Andy Hall grows; trial for case filed by Natural Fruit begins 2 Sept.

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

 

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26 April 2018

British Govt. "ready" to provide consular assistance to Andy Hall if required

Author: UK Parliament (UK)

'Andy Hall Written Question' 13 Apr 2018

[On April 13, 2018 Mrs. Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he has provided consular assistance to the British human rights campaigner Andy Hall, who has been sentenced for defamation in Thailand]

[On April 19, 2018. Mr. Mark Field answered:] Mr Hall has not recently requested consular assistance. However, we have been active in supporting him in relation to his work promoting human rights. Embassy staff have attended trial hearings and raised his case with the Thai authorities. We shall continue this work, and stand ready to provide consular assistance should he require it. The British Government supports the right of human rights defenders to carry out their work without fear of harassment or reprisals. We also support full implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

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Article
11 April 2018

Nordic food companies say verdict against Andy Hall is harmful to Thailand as exporting country & emphasize importance of free civil society

Author: Axfood (Sweden), Axfoundation (Sweden), Coop (Sweden), Findus (Sweden), Ethical Trading Initiative (Norway), Martin & Servera (Sweden), Menigo (Sweden), Norvida (Sweden), SOK (Finland), Unil (Norway)

"Nordic food companies’ comment on the Court decision 26th March 2018 regarding defamation case against human rights advocate Andy Hall", 11 Apr 2018

On Monday 26th March, Thailand’s Prakanong Court found business and human rights advocate Andy Hall guilty of defamation for researching and speaking out on migrant workers’ rights in the Thai fruit industry. Hall was ordered to pay the equivalent of EUR 260,200 in civil damages plus court fees to fruit producer Natural Fruit Co. Ltd The court order is...a backlash for human rights defenders, migrant workers... It will doubtlessly prove to be harmful to Natural Fruit Co. Ltd’s business potential with Nordic and European buyers... [T]he court order is harmful to Thailand as...exporting country. In recent years, following massive pressure..., Thailand has made efforts to reduce...risk of exploitation of workers...Nevertheless, the decision taken by the...Court... challenges business relations with Thailand for Nordic companies... We agree with Ethical Trading Initiative UK upon the following three necessities going forward: Better grievance mechanisms and the commitment to use them at company level, [b]etter dispute resolution mechanisms and the commitment to use them at industry association level, [and] [r]esponsible national regulation to resolve future disputes if companies and associations fail. [W]e signatories with essential business relations with Thai food exporters, emphasise the importance of a free civil society in Thailand and that revealing human rights violations should not be punished.

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Article
10 April 2018

S Group makes a donation to support defender Andy Hall's appeal of court decision

Author: Lea Rankinen, S Group (Finland)

"Freedom of action for human rights defenders must be safeguarded", 08 April 2018

At the end of March the Thai court ordered human rights defender Andy Hall to pay 260 000 Eur in compensation for the defamation to Natural Fruit company.

We are upset about the verdict. Human rights defenders make a significant efforts to improve workers' rights and should have the opportunity to act without fear. A free civil society benefits businesses also. Instead of the legal process, the problems must be resolved first and foremost with transparency and dialogue.

In recent years Thailand has launched measures to eradicate human rights violations. The measures are steps to the right direction, but alongside them, the work of NGOs and human rights defenders is also needed to improve human rights situation. In addition employees must have the opportunity to safely and legitimately raise their concerns.

Lea Rankinen, SVP Sustainability, SOK

A report released by Finnwatch in March 2013 revealed misconducts of the production conditions of pineapple juice in Thailand. One of researchers of the report...Andy Hall has been charged with several other charges of defamation...S Group has made a donation to the collection of Freedom Fund which supports Andy Hall in appealing a court decision.

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Article
8 April 2018

Ethical Trading Initiative UK says verdict against Andy Hall damages "Brand Thailand"

Author: Nick Kightley, Ethical Trading Initiative (UK)

"Damaging ‘Brand Thailand’: Reaction to court ruling against labour rights advocate, Andy Hall", 28 Mar 2018

Thailand’s Prakanong Court in Bangkok...ordered business and human rights advocate, Andy Hall, to pay 10 million baht (£225,957) in civil damages plus legal and court fees to pineapple company Natural Fruit Co Ltd. Two years ago, I expressed ETI’s serious concerns when labour rights advocate Andy Hall was found guilty of defamation for researching and speaking out on migrant worker’s rights in the Thai fruit industry. Following this latest 26 March court verdict, I must sadly reiterate those concerns. This latest court ruling has grave implications for free speech and poses a potential threat to workers, future whistle blowers, and business and human rights advocates. Let’s be clear, Andy Hall was there to research migrant worker abuse. Let’s also be clear that while we condemn local company lawsuits against legitimate human rights defenders such as Andy Hall, this case is not just about the implications for one person, or even for future activists. This is also about the potential damage to ‘Brand Thailand’. We believe that such decisions damage the reputation of Thailand’s food industry as a whole...

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Article
8 April 2018

Leading global business association AMFORI (formerly Foreign Trade Association) expresses concern over verdict against defender Andy Hall by Thai court

Author: AMFORI (Belgium)

"Andy Hall Verdict: Human Rights Defender Found Guilty of Defamation", 30 Mar 2018

On Monday 26 March, Thailand’s Prakanong Court in Bangkok ordered business and human rights advocate Andy Hall to pay the equivalent of €260,200 in civil damages, plus court fees, to fruit producer Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. Hall was found guilty of defamation for research he conducted on migrant worker’s rights in the Thai fruit industry.

While we recognise the independence of judicial power, which must be free from any external interference, we are concerned about the negative impact such a decision may have not only on the future activity of human rights defenders in Thailand, but also on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in this country.

We acknowledge the significant efforts Thailand has made so far to reduce the risk of worker exploitation (particularly migrant workers), in the food industry. However, we believe it is paramount for the country that these efforts go hand-in-hand with judicial decisions that enable a secure environment where international buyers and Thai companies can successfully pursue their due diligence commitments, and ensure the state honours its obligation to “protect” and provide victims access to “remedy”.

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Article
29 March 2018

Comment about Andy Hall's verdict from UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, received by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Author: Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the Government of the United Kingdom

We are aware of the civil court order issued by the Prakhanong Court on 26 March against Mr Andy Hall. Legal proceedings are ongoing so we cannot offer further comment at this time.  We have taken a number of actions to support Mr Hall and remain in contact with him.

The UK government supports the right of human rights defenders to carry out their work without fear of harassment or reprisals.  We also support full implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Article
27 March 2018

Thai court rules against labour rights activist Andy Hall in defamation lawsuit over report alleging human rights abuses at Natural Fruit's factory

Author: Kaweewit Kaewjinda, The Washington Post (USA)

"Thai court finds British labor activist defamed fruit firm", 26 March 2018

A court in the Thai capital...ordered a British labor rights activist to pay 10 million baht ($321,000) in damages to a company that filed a civil defamation suit after he helped expose alleged human rights violations at its factory.  The ruling against Andy Hall was the latest development involving four defamation suits filed by pineapple canning company Natural Fruit, which employed migrant Myanmar workers who claimed the company had abused them and broke labor regulations.  Hall’s legal troubles stem from a 2013 report he researched for the Finnish consumer organization Finnwatch that alleged labor abuses at Natural Fruit’s facilities.  They also concern an interview that he gave to Al-Jazeera on the subject, which was the focus of Monday’s ruling.  Natural Fruit claimed that the report Hall helped research and his interview comments both hurt their business...“This verdict is a major setback for rights of human rights defenders, migrant workers, labour/migration activists and researchers everywhere and casts a dark shadow over recent positive progress the Thai government and Thai industry has made to improve migrant worker conditions,” Hall commented...

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