Good news! Thailand’s Supreme Court has today acquitted human rights defender Andy Hall of the charges against him. I am happy and relieved by the court decision. The years of torment are over.
The pressure and harassment on Andy Hall began as early as 2013, when Finnwatch, a Finnish NGO, published a research report on the shortcomings and miserable working conditions associated with the production of pineapple juice in Thailand. The report revealed serious human rights violations and illegalities. Natural Fruit, which produces pineapple juice, responded to the report by filing charges against both Andy Hall and Finnwatch. The published report was claimed to be a “defamation” and uploading it to the website was seen as a “computer crime”.
Unfortunately, this was not surprising. Unscrupulous companies are increasingly using criminal charges and trials to silence human rights defenders. Fortunately, there are other types of companies as well: the S Group, a Finnish retail sector company, supported Andy Hall through the legal process and testified in court as a witness for his defense. This is an exemplary case of corporate responsibility.
I considered it important for the EU to pay attention to Andy Hall’s situation. In October 2015, the European Parliament condemned the ongoing trials in Thailand. The European Parliament stated that Andy Hall’s activities were aimed at exposing instances of human trafficking and to improve the legal situation of migrant workers. The Parliament also expressed its concerns about the impartiality of the legal proceedings, as there were reports of ownership links between the suing company and high-ranking Thai politicians.
A year later, I invited Andy Hall to visit the European Parliament. On 6 October 2016, the Parliament adopted a full resolution on Thailand, notably the case of Andy Hall. In the resolution the Parliament called on the Thai Government to ensure that the rights — including the right to a fair trial — of Mr Hall and other human rights defenders are respected and protected. In the plenary session, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström reproached Thailand: European consumers do not want unethically manufactured products.