On May 11, 2016, Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) officers reportedly detained Diego Hernandez, a law student at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, who was protesting outside Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE).
A group of over 2,000 demonstrators reportedly marched to the CNE headquarters on May 11 to express their support for a recall referendum demanding the removal of President Nicolas Maduro. While most demonstrators were unable to reach the CNE headquarters, Mr. Hernandez reportedly passed a barrier and held up a poster with the phrase “Revocatorio ya” (translated as “referendum now”) before attempting to address journalists on the scene. Video footage shows a GNB officer taking the poster from Mr. Hernandez, who was then chased down and detained by several other GNB officers. The officers took Mr. Hernandez to a nearby jail before releasing him that evening.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of a student as a result of nonviolent expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association, so long as such rights are exercised peacefully and responsibly.