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Good News Stories - September 2021

Mexico
Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled that criminal penalties for terminating pregnancies are unconstitutional. The ruling, for the northern state of Coahuila, prevents women from being prosecuted for getting an abortion. Abortion is currently severely restricted in all but four of the country's states.

The 11 Supreme Court judges unanimously voted to decriminalise abortion in that state, and under Mexican law, it will now apply to all the other states in the country.

It is likely to take some time to be applied across the nation, but in effect the decision provides each state with a roadmap towards new legislation. Furthermore, it should mean that women who were jailed for having abortions will be immediately released.

Supreme Court Justice Luis Maria Aguilar described the move as a "historic step for the rights of women". On Tuesday, the court ordered the state of Coahuila to remove sanctions for abortion from its criminal code. The decision could pave the way for the decriminalisation of abortions across the country.

Currently, abortion is only legal in a handful of states, except in cases of rape or where the mother's life is in danger.

Coahuila borders the US state of Texas, where the Supreme Court allowed a state law banning all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The ruling could open up avenues for people from Texas seeking legal abortions.

The decision is likely to anger more conservative politicians in Mexico and the Catholic Church. However, the church's influence has been waning in recent years and the government considers itself staunchly secular.

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Egypt
An Egyptian judge has dropped an investigation into at least six human rights defenders and NGO workers, lifted travel bans against them and stopped asset freezes targeting a number of them in Case 173/2011, including Azza Soliman, Esraa Abdelfattah and Negad el Bor’ei, Hossam Ali and Magdy Abdelhamid. It is unclear whether the Ministry of Interior has now officially removed their names from the travel bans list.

However, Case 173 investigations continue into other prominent human rights defenders, including: Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information; Hossam Bahgat, founder and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Mozn Hassan, head of Nazra for Feminist Studies. Others named in the case include Mohamed Zaree, the Egypt Programme director at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; and Aida Seif al-Dawla, Magda Adly and Suzan Fayad, the founders and directors of El-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture.

Since 2014, investigative judges have conducted a criminal investigation into the work and sources of foreign funding of Egyptian NGOs and have issued asset freezes against seven organizations and 10 human rights defenders. Egyptian authorities banned at least 31 human rights defenders and NGO staff from travel abroad for six years. Different courts have rejected several appeals by human rights defenders against the punitive restrictive measures against them.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf said: The decision to lift the travel bans and drop the investigations against these six human rights defenders is the first good news since this investigation against human rights and civil society organizations first started in 2014. It has long been a form of reprisal for defenders of brave human rights work, and they should not have been targeted with these punitive measures in the first place. The Egyptian authorities must drop Case 173 once and for all and lift all travel bans and asset freezes against at least 20 other human rights defenders still subject to these measures. This infamous decade-long case has been nothing but a desperate attempt to dismantle Egypt’s human rights movement and silence dissent through intimidation, harassment and politically motivated legal action.

Separately to this case, at least 13 human rights defenders and NGO workers remain behind bars on unfounded terrorism charges, while dozens more face unlawful travel bans and abusive trials over charges of spreading false news. If the Egyptian authorities are serious about ending the crackdown against human rights defenders, then they must immediately release those arbitrarily detained, remove travel bans, quash verdicts and end unjust prosecutions of human rights defenders.”

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