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Andorra: Defamation charge against activist facing trial for speaking out about women’s rights must be dropped

  • “I won’t stop speaking out for women’s rights” vows woman rights defender

An activist who faces a potential fine after speaking about abortion rights and women’s rights at a United Nations forum, should have the defamation charge against her dropped, Amnesty International said ahead of the organization’s participation in an event on sexual and reproductive rights in Andorra.

In 2020 the public prosecutor brought three criminal defamation charges against Vanessa Mendoza Cortés following a complaint by the Andorran government after she spoke about abortion rights and the situation of women and girls in the country at a specialist United Nations Committee meeting. In 2021 the prosecutor dropped two of the charges involving prison sentences, but she still faces a potential fine of up to 30,000 euros and a criminal record if convicted. Andorra is one of the few remaining countries in the world to have a total ban on abortion.

“The initial complaint, prosecution and later indictment of Vanessa Mendoza Cortés after her legitimate participation in an expert UN body is nothing less than a shameful and deliberate attempt to prevent her from voicing her opinions and punish her for speaking about abortion and women’s rights,” said Monica Costa, Senior Campaigner, Amnesty International.

I am being treated like a criminal, but I have done nothing wrong. I won’t stop speaking out for the rights of women and girls in Andorra, including their right to abortion in a country where access to it is totally banned

Vanessa Mendoza Cortés

Background

Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is a psychologist and the president of the women’s rights organisation Stop Violències. In 2019 she spoke about the situation of women and girls including the right to abortion in the review of Andorra conducted by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Last October, a judge issued an indictment against her for the alleged “crimes against the prestige of the institutions”. There is no date for the trial yet.

Andorra and Malta are the only two countries in Europe with a total ban on abortion. As a result of the ban, people in need of abortions are compelled to travel abroad, mainly to France and Spain to seek the healthcare they are entitled to. Those unable to travel because of the cost or due to their uncertain legal status face a heightened risk of human rights violations.    

On 16 December Amnesty International will participate in an event about sexual and reproductive rights in Andorra organised by Stop Violències.  The event will start at 18:30 (CET). Prior to the event, at 12.30 (CET), there will be a press conference at Sala d’Actes del Centre Cultural de la Llacuna, Andorra la Vella.