#WHRDAlert EL SALVADOR / FESPAD members Bertha de León and Teresa Naves face harassment, intimidation, and threats

Bertha de León and Teresa Naves are human rights lawyers who are currently working on a criminal lawsuit brought by the Foundation for the Study and Application of Law (FESPAD, in Spanish) against ex-President Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez for embezzlement, illicit gain, and disobedience for allegedly stealing USD 15 million donated by the government of Taiwan to El Salvador to help victims of the 2001 earthquakes and to assist in the fight against poverty.

Both women have been issued precautionary measures by the Human Rights Prosecutor of El Salvador.

Following the preliminary hearing in the case against ex-President Flores, which was held on November 5 and 6, 2015, women human rights defenders Bertha de León and Teresa Naves have been the targets of various acts of intimidation and harassment.

On 18 November 2015, Teresa Naves reported that an unidentified man had been following her since 7 November 2015 and that he aimed a laser pointer at her face on multiple occasions. Previously, on 17 November 2015 at approximately 9:30 a.m., the WHRD received a telephone threat. More recently, on 10 December 2015, while she was in an interview, the body of her vehicle was damaged. Bertha de León was followed and intimidated by an unidentified vehicle on 10 and 12 November 2015.

Both lawyers have also been victims of judicial harassment. In January 2015, the Attorney General’s Office filed an administrative complaint against FESPAD for allegedly disclosing confidential financial information. The Attorney General also has sent letters to FESPAD threatening to file criminal charges against the organization for disclosing information from financial reports of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras) expresses our concern that the intimidation and psychological pressures persist regardless of the precautionary measures adopted by the Human Rights Prosecutor. We demand that the Salvadoran government fulfill its obligation to guarantee the security of both WHRDs and uphold their right to continue their work freely and without pressure.

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