ANDORRA : SOLIDARITY REQUEST – Defamation charges against activist who raised women’s rights concerns before CEDAW Committee must be dropped

Vanessa Mendoza Cortes (above), a human rights defender, faces four years in jail after speaking about women’s rights at a CEDAW expert forum in 2019, including decriminalisation of abortion and greater reproductive rights for women and girls. All charges against her should be dropped, Amnesty International said, ahead of a hearing before an Andorran judge in February 2021. Mendoza Corte is a psychologist and the President of a women’s rights organisation called Associacio Stop Violencies. The criminal defamation charges were demanded by the Andorran government, claiming that their “good name and prestige” had been compromised. In 2020 the public prosecutor brought three criminal defamation charges against her. 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. The charges against her carry heavy penalties, including a potential sentence of up to four years’ imprisonment and fines of up to 30,000 euros. Andorra is one of the few remaining countries in the world to have a total ban on abortion. However, she vowed not to stop speaking out. As of December 2022, no date for a trial had been set.

SOLIDARITY REQUEST : On 21 February 2023, Amnesty announced that the trial may take place soon and called for urgent action in the form of an appeal to Attorney General Mr Alfons Alberca Sanvicens. A model letter text can be found here. It should be sent by 18 April 2023.

SOURCES: Amnesty International Press release, 16 February 2021 ; Amnesty International, News, 15 December 2022 ; Amnesty International Urgent Action 21 February 2023.