Activist tried for raising concerns about total abortion ban at UN meeting

by time news

2023-12-01 14:26:46
© Stop Violence Association

Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, an activist working on abortion rights, should never have been accused of a crime or tried for defending human rights. This was stated by Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Women’s Link on the eve of her defamation trial, which will take place on Monday.

Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, president of the civil society organization Stop Violències, was accused of criminal defamation after expressing concern about the total ban on abortion in Andorra during a meeting held by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against to examine the country’s record on women’s rights in 2019.

“This politically motivated trial is the latest attempt by Andorran authorities to silence criticism about the harmful impact of their total ban on abortion. “This prosecution is a deliberate and scandalous attempt to punish a respected human rights defender for her participation in a UN meeting,” said Monica Costa Riba, Amnesty International’s Director of Gender Justice Campaigns in Europe.

In 2020, prosecutors brought three charges of criminal defamation against Vanessa but, due to international outrage, two of the charges carrying prison sentences were dropped. Vanessa is currently accused of “a crime against the prestige of the institutions” and, if found guilty, faces a fine of 6,000 euros, another 6,000 euros in civil damages, and a ban from holding any position. public for six months.

Given the serious human rights concerns raised by the lengthy prosecution of Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, two eminent human rights experts will attend the court hearing on Monday as independent observers and will assess whether the court’s proceedings comply with international human rights standards. humans.

Andorra is the only country in Europe that completely prohibits abortion. As a result, people who need abortions are forced to travel abroad to receive the medical care they need, which violates their rights and places them under additional stress.

“Abortion is an essential part of healthcare, and access to abortion is a human right. Human rights defenders like Vanessa Mendoza Cortés who defend reproductive rights should never be subject to retaliation and other forms of intimidation. The charges against Vanessa must be dropped, and the Andorran authorities must end reprisals against human rights defenders participating in the United Nations,” said Katrine Thomasen, associate director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

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The organizations are deeply concerned about the provisions of the Penal Code on defamation against State institutions and against the Head of State, including the article under which Vanessa Mendoza Cortés has been charged. Under international human rights standards, government and public authorities must legitimately be subjected to public scrutiny or criticism. Laws that protect against reputational attacks should not be designed to protect abstract values ​​or state institutions.

“The prosecution of Vanessa Mendoza Cortés shows how the criminalization and prohibition of abortion can lead to violations of the right to information and freedom of expression and association, and limit public debate and scrutiny of the government,” said Gema Fernández, managing attorney of Women’s Link.

Additional information

On 28 November, in a public statement, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Andorran authorities to guarantee the right to freedom of expression of women’s rights defender Vanessa Mendoza Cortés and ensure an enabling environment for those who defend women’s rights in the country.

More than 70,000 people from countries such as Belgium, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Finland and the United Kingdom have asked the Andorran Attorney General’s Office to drop the charges against Vanessa Mendoza Cortés.

The unjust prosecution of Vanessa Mendoza Cortés and the concerted efforts to delegitimize her work promoting sexual and reproductive rights follow a global pattern of intimidation, attacks and stigmatization of people who defend abortion rights, a pattern that makes her work harder every time.

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