On February 16, 2017, several unidentified individuals reportedly attacked a group of professors participating in a meeting of the National Council of Higher Education (CNES), a faculty union in Algeria that has been the subject of recent political tension. At least three professors were injured.
The professors held a general assembly on the Ben Aknoun campus of University of Algiers to discuss management issues affecting the university and to hold a vote to establish a CNES office on campus. The meeting took place amid controversy surrounding accusations of rigged elections for the national leader of CNES, as well as reports that the university’s rector had opposed the establishment of a CNES office on campus. A group of at least ten young men reportedly interrupted the meeting, attacked the faculty members, and attempted to steal the committee’s ballot box. Professors Mohamed Rezig, Toufik Bliouta, and Sami El Aïta were injured in the incident.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent retaliation against scholars’ peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such attacks threaten academic freedom and democratic society generally. State and university authorities have a responsibility to prevent violence on campus, and to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of such attacks.