UN experts concerned by systematic use of SLAPP cases against human rights defenders by businesses
16 December 2022
GENEVA (16 December 2022) – The Working Group on Business and Human Rights today urged the Thai Government to take action to stop businesses from using the legal system to silence academics, human rights defenders, journalists and other civil society actors.
SLAPPs, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, are often used to intimidate reporters and rights advocates with the threat of endless legal action and costs.
“The cases filed by companies, such as Thammakaset Company Limited, against human rights defenders are a clear example of businesses abusing the legal system in order to censor, intimidate, and silence criticism through SLAPPs as a method of judicial harassment,” the experts said.
“The Working Group on Business and Human Rights has acted through the Special Procedures’ communication procedure in relation to a number of cases concerning Thammakaset Company Limited. It has held meetings with company representatives with the objective of finding an amicable solution. It is therefore disheartening to see that the company continues to flagrantly ignore the advice of the Working Group by continuing to persecute those who peacefully defend human rights,” the experts said.
Thammakaset Company Limited has filed defamation cases against Angkhana Neelapaijit, Puttanee Kangkun and Thanaporn Saleephol, among other human rights defenders. The South Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to hear the case of Angkhana Neelapaijit on 19 December 2022.
“We are deeply concerned that human rights defenders are facing prison sentences and heavy fines for exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion,” said the experts.
Noting that the Kingdom of Thailand is the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to publish a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, the UN experts also urged the Thai Government to implement the guidance presented by the Working Group to the UN Human Rights Council in 2021 on ensuring respect for human rights defenders (A/HRC/47/39/Add.2). The Working Group’s guidance states that businesses should not engage in judicial harassment, including SLAPPs. The Working Group has reiterated this message, including at the 2021 and 2022 annual Forums on Business and Human Rights.
“The UN Guiding Principles highlight the key role that human rights defenders have in promoting human rights due diligence and in enabling business enterprises to better understand the concerns of affected stakeholders. Threats against human rights defenders, including intimidation, through legal processes must therefore stop,” said the experts.
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.