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Andorra
22.10.20
Urgent Interventions

Threats and judicial harassment against Ms. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés

URGENTAPPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

AND 001 / 1020 / OBS114

Judicial harassment /

Threats

Andorra

October 22, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the followingsituation in Andorra.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed byreliable sources about the threats and judicial harassment against Ms. VanessaMendoza Cortés, a psychologist and therapist, expert in violence againstwomen, and the President of Stop Violències (SV), a women’s rights organisationwhich works on sexual and reproductive health rights and the decriminalisationof abortion[1]. Over the past months, Ms. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés has been judiciallyharassed and threatened due to her activities as a women’s rights defender, andmore particularly because of her position in favour of the decriminalisation ofabortion, which is illegal under allcircumstances in the Principality ofAndorra.

According tothe information received, on September 30, 2020, Mr. Joan Forner Rovira, Chargé d'affaires a.i. of the Principality ofAndorra to the United Nations Office in Geneva, confirmed during the 45thsession of the Human Rights Council that an investigation was opened againstMs. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés regarding statements she made during a publicassembly held on October 8, 2019. However, Ms. Mendoza Cortés’ lawyers havestill not received any formal notification of this investigation.

Previously, on October28, 2019, the government of Andorra filed a first criminal lawsuit against Ms.Vanessa Mendoza Cortés before the Public Prosecutor following two actionsundertook by Ms. Mendoza Cortés: a public statement made on a televiseddocumentary and the presentation of a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination ofDiscrimination against Women (CEDAW) on October 19, 2019, in the context of thereview of Andorra before the UN body. Her lawyers were not formally notifiedabout the lawsuit until September 16, 2020. She has been charged with“defamation with publicity” against the Government (article 172 of the AndorraCriminal Code), “defamation against the co-princes” (article 320 of the sameCode) and “crimes against the institutions” (article 325 of the same Code) andis facing up to four years in prison. On July 9, 2020, the government ofAndorra reported that “due to the COVID-19 pandemic all judicial process wereinterrupted, and that the Public Prosecutor’s Office” was “still carefullyanalyzing the different statements made by Ms. Mendoza Cortés”[2].As of October 2020, the proceedings are still pending.

In addition, StopViolències and Ms. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés are victims of a smear campaign bythe Andorra Government conducted in the media as well as at the United Nationslevel, aimed at undermining the credibility of their work, in order todiscourage women from contacting the association, and rendering its workunnecessary[3].Ms. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is regularly receiving phone calls with no onereplying on the other side and has experienced remote tampering of her personalcomputer. She is also regularly followed by cars and randomly stopped by policeofficers in Andorra. Ms. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés fears for her well-being,physical integrity and the lack of guarantees in the framework of the criminalinvestigations and current proceedings.

The Observatory recallsthat her situation has been monitored since last year by the United NationsSecretary General, who mentioned her case in his 2020 report to the HumanRights Council on the Cooperation with the United Nations, itsrepresentatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights,referring to “disproportionate measures taken by the Government againstAssociació Stop Violències Andorra, (...) and its representative, Ms. VanessaMendoza Cortés”[4].

TheObservatory expresses its utmost concern over the judicial harassment andthreats against Ms. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, which seem to be only aimed atpunishing her for her legitimate human rights activities, in particular inrelation with the defense of women’s rights, and the exercise of her freedom ofexpression.

The Observatory urgesthe Andorran authorities to respect the free exercise of Ms. VanessaMendoza Cortés’ basic human rights of freedom of expression and association aswell as the legitimate activities of her association Stop Violències, toguarantee in all circumstances her physical integrity and psychologicalwell-being and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at thejudicial level, against her.

Actions requested:

Please write to theauthorities of Andorra to urge them to:

i. Guaranteein all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms.Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, as well as of all other human rights defenders inAndorra;

ii. Putan end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - againstMs. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés and all other human rights defenders in Andorra whodefend sexual and reproductive rights, and ensure in all circumstances thatthey are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindranceand fear of reprisals;

iii. Conformin all circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly,in particular its Articles 1, 6 and 12.2;

iv. Ensurein all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Andorra.

Addresses:

· Mr. Emmanuel Macron,Co-Prince of Andorra and President of France, Email via http://www.elysee.fr/ecrire-au-president-de-la-republique/; Twitter : @EmmanuelMacron

· Mr. Joan-Enric Vives iSicília, Co-Prince of Andorra and Bishop of Urgell, Email: secretariageneral@bisbaturgell.org;

· Mr. Xavier EspotZamora, Prime Minister of Andorra, Tel.: +376 875 700 ;

· Mr. Josep Maria RossellPons, Minister of Justice and Interior of Andorra, Email: interior@govern.ad;

· Ms. Maria Ubach Font,Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra, Email: exteriors@govern.ad;

· H.E. Mr. Joan FornerRovira, Permanent Mission of Andorra to the United Nations in Geneva,Switzerland, Email: joan_forner@govern.ad;

· H.E. Mrs. Esther Rabasa Grau,Embassy of Andorra in Brussels, Email: Ambaixada_Belgica@govern.ad.

Please also write to the diplomaticrepresentations of Andorra in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, October 22, 2020

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) wascreated in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. Theobjective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu,the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

[1] StopViolències’ main goals are to fight for women’s rights in Andorra, withparticular attention to sexual and reproductive rights includingdecriminalisation of abortion in the Andorran Criminal Code as a startingpoint; to undertake projects to advocate and bring voice to violence by menupon women, including by public protests on the streets; to denounce - inAndorra and internationally - violence against women and the lack ofappropriate services to take care of women facing this kind of violence; toraise awareness on feminism, gender perspective and everything related to thissocial movement by means of cultural actions, events, peaceful protests andother related activities.

[2] See Report ofthe United Nations Secretary General, Cooperation with the United Nations, itsrepresentatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, A/HRC/45/36,September 25, 2020, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/session42/Documents/A_HRC_42_30.docx.

[3] See forexample articles (in Catalan) here and here and a public survey in the media to discusswhether citizens see hints of crime in the conducts of Stop Violències.

[4] Report of theUnited Nations Secretary General, Cooperation with the United Nations, itsrepresentatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, A/HRC/45/36,September 25, 2020, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/session42/Documents/A_HRC_42_30.docx, p. 8.

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