On May 4, 2017, government authorities violently dispersed student protesters as they attempted to leave the campus of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) in Caracas, to march to the country’s ministries of justice and interior nearby.
Student leaders throughout Venezuela had reportedly called for marches to show support for the country’s opposition, and solidarity with the families of more than 35 people who had been killed in anti-government protests over the past two months. As the protesters left the campus, they were met by government troops, who launched tear gas and rubber bullets at the students. Numerous students were reportedly injured, although the exact numbers were unavailable as of this report.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against students in an apparent attempt to prevent the nonviolent 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 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State officials have a responsibility to protect academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, and to refrain from interfering with these rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly.