SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 24, 2017

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Orient University

Region & Country:Americas | Venezuela

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 24, 2017, state security forces clashed with student protesters on the campus of Orient University in the City of Bolivar; Augusto Sergio Pugas, a 22-year-old nursing student, died of a bullet wound to the head; eight other students were reportedly injured.

Students had been engaged in a non-violent protest when state police and Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) soldiers reportedly entered the campus, and attempted to disperse students using tear gas, shotguns and other firearms. The injured students included Jhon Noriega, Francisco Quintero, Carlos Zamora, Jhonatan Lira, Luis Olivero, Wilmer Salazar, Edward Carrillo, and Ezequiel Febres.

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.