On March 27, 2018, police used violent force against a group of students outside the Constitutional Court in Santiago, Chile, as they protested a recent decision by the court regarding university funding.
The students had gathered peacefully to protest a March 2018 decision by the Constitutional Court declaring unconstitutional a legal provision that forbids university administrators from profiting from public education. Police arrived sometime after the protest began, and reportedly found that some students had moved into the street. Police reportedly responded by beating, restraining, choking, and using water cannons to disperse the protesters. One student, Fernando Quintana Caldera, a 25 year old economics student from University of Chile and a member of the Communist Youth of Chile party, was beaten repeatedly, thrown to the ground, knocked unconscious and dragged by the arm across a street, while police prevented other students from assisting him. Doctors later reportedly confirmed that Quintana had suffered traumatic brain injury and other bodily injuries, but authorities reportedly prevented publication the relevant hospital records. Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights has brought an action on Quintana’s behalf alleging torture.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force by police in apparent retaliation against the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Chile is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to not interfere with such rights and to refrain from the use of force intended to restrict them. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions have a chilling effect on academic freedom and due process, and undermine democratic society generally.