Press Release: Thailand must cease prosecution of human rights defenders

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andy-hall-human-rights-dayHuman Rights at Sea is pleased to overtly support the case of Andy Hall in Thailand alongside a global coalition of organisations spanning civil society in order to continue to highlight the abuses in the wrongful application of the rule of law towards human rights defenders through their arrest, detention and prosecution.

110 signatures from 60 civil society organizations, 28 unions and worker organizations, 13 companies and 9 members of the European Parliament is a powerful testimony of an example of collective action in support of human right defenders.

 

For Immediate Release 

December 10, 2016

Global coalition of 110 organizations call on Prime Minister Prayut for reforms

Thailand’s use of criminal defamation and the Computer Crimes Act to prosecute human rights defenders violates its international obligations and increases risk for businesses that source goods from Thailand, said a coalition of civil society groups, worker organizations, businesses and members of the European Parliament in an open letter sent to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today, International Human Rights Day. The letter highlighted the conviction of migrant rights defender Andy Hall as a dangerous precedent that would make it more difficult for migrant workers to ensure their rights are respected.

Bangkok South Criminal Court found Hall guilty of criminal defamation on September 20, 2016. The charges related to a report published by Finnwatch, a Finnish civil society organization, that outlined allegations of serious human rights violations at a pineapple processing facility owned by Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

“Already we are seeing other abusive employers follow Natural Fruit’s lead and use criminal defamation and the Computer Crimes Act to bring cases against migrant workers who speak out when trapped in illegal working conditions,” said Abby McGill, campaigns director with the International Labor Rights Forum, a signatory to the letter. “These laws have a dangerous chilling effect and punish victims for seeking remedy, rather than those who commit crimes against them.”

In November 2016, a Thai poultry exporter called Betagro initiated charges of criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crimes Act against 14 workers who allege they worked in extremely exploitative conditions on a Betagro chicken farm. The company has pursued similar charges against the Migrant Workers Rights Network, a civil society organization that helped the workers, and against Hall.

To prevent similar cases in the future, and increase confidence among international buyers that Thai goods are produced in acceptable working conditions, the letter urges the Royal Thai Government to: 1. repeal the provisions in the Penal Code criminalizing defamation; 2. amend the Computer Crime Act to bring it into compliance with international human rights law regarding freedom of expression; 3. Actively and effectively implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; and 4. Ratify and implement ILO Core Labor Conventions, particularly No. 87 and No. 98.

”Thailand’s laws that allow for criminal punishment and even imprisonment for defamation are in clear breach of Thailand’s international human rights obligations,” said Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director of Finnwatch. “Instead of allowing companies to take human rights defenders to criminal courts for alleged defamation, Thailand needs to thoroughly follow through on allegations of violations of migrant workers’ rights.”

DOWNLOAD THE LETTER TO THE THAI PRIME MINSTER HERE

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For more information, please contact:

Abby McGill, International Labor Rights Forum; abby@ilrf.org; +1(202)347-4100, ext. 113.