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Human rights defender's story: Vanessa Mendoza Cortés


Story behind

Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is a psychologist and the president of Associació Stop Violències Andorra, which focuses on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive rights, and advocates for safe and legal abortion in Andorra. Andorra enforces a total ban on abortions.

Associació Stop Violències Andorra supports pregnant women and girls to access abortions abroad and speaks out to demand access to safe and legal abortion in Andorra. Vanessa Mendoza Cortés is the main spokesperson for the organisation.

What happened

In September 2019, Associació Stop Violències Andorra submitted a civil society report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW).

In October 2019 during the 74th CEDAW Committee session Vanessa Mendoza Cortés made a statement in Geneva that was publicly broadcast. She spoke out about the harmful impact (such as the forced maternity in girls and women who have been raped) of the total abortion ban on women and girls in Andorra among others.

At the beginning of November Vanessa was summoned by the Andorran police in relation to the demonstration the association organised on 28 September 2019, for which the association had authorisation.

On 8 November 2019 CEDAW made its concluding observations on Andorra public. In a press conference on 15 November 2019, the head of the Government Xavier Espot Zamora reported that it had asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate Mendoza Cortés’ report submitted to the Committee and other statements made by the president of the organization for possible indications of a criminal offence against the reputation of the Andorran administration.

In September 2020, the public prosecutor charged Vanessa Mendoza Cortés with ‘slander with publicity’ (article 172 of the Penal Code), ‘slander against the co-princes’ (article 320 of the Penal Code) and ‘crimes against the prestige of the institutions’ (article 325 of the Penal Code). In October 2022, a judge issued an indictment against Vanessa Mendoza Cortés for the alleged “crimes against the prestige of the institutions” involving a potentially heavy fine (up to 30,000 euros) and a criminal record if convicted.

The evidence included in the indictment refers to the content of the civil society report submitted by Associació Stop Violències Andorra to the CEDAW in 2019 and mentions the media statements made by Vanessa Mendoza Cortés.

There is no trial date yet.

What do we want

We want Andorra authorities to drop the charges against Vanessa, close the case file and publicly condemn any intimidation or reprisals against human rights defenders engaging at the UN.