EU needs to support Andy Hall

The European Parliament called today for Thai court to drop all charges against Andy Hall, an EU citizen and a human rights defender.

In 2013, Andy Hall contributed to a Finnwatch report “Cheap Has a High Price” showing labour abuses and slavery-like practices by a Thai pineapple wholesaler, Natural Fruit Company Ltd. Instead of being threatened with seven years of prison, he should be rewarded for this.

Natural Fruit Company Ltd. has filed against Hall a total of four cases, of which one, criminal defamation was dismissed by the appeals court in September 2015. However, the Bangkok south criminal court accepted the indictment of the current case in August 2015. Andy Hall will be formally indicted in a criminal defamation and computer crimes act prosecution case on 19 October 2015.

The Parliament asked the EU delegation in Thailand to continue to follow Hall’s legal situation closely and to attend his trial. I already appealed to the delegation with a letter in August. I was pleased to hear Commissioner Stylianides confirming today that the EU delegation will be there. EU presence may be crucial to the fate of the human rights defender.

The EU should also condemn on a higher level, by the high representative, the judicial harassment of Hall and demand Thailand to investigate the allegations against Natural Fruit. Andy Hall’s court process should be given EU’s financial support directed to human rights defenders, same way as happened in 2013.

EU cannot watch aside as a legitimate human rights defender is silenced and freedom of expression breached. This is a turning point to change trade policies. The European consumers have the right to know the origin of the products and the truth about the production conditions. We do not know whether Natural Fruit is still continuing imports to the EU. That should not be the case.