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: April 23, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (PUN)

Region & Country:Americas | Nicaragua

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 23, 2018, police officers reportedly fired live rounds at students participating in a demonstration at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (PUN), killing one student and injuring others.

On April 18, Nicaraguans began protesting a social security reform that would reportedly increase employee and employer contributions and lower pensions. The protests led to civil unrest across the country and were marked by violent street clashes between university students and riot police. Human rights organizations reported at least 34 fatalities, including a majority of students, hundreds of injuries, and at least 120 arrests.

On April 23, thousands of citizens, led by students, protested in Managua against the authorities’ use of violent force and to demand the resignation of the country’s president Daniel Ortega. That night, authorities reportedly attempted to evacuate the PUN, where students had attended a vigil for those killed during protests. According to media sources, authorities opened fire during the campus raid, killing one student and injuring others.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes between police forces and students during a campus demonstration. While authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect freedom of expression, freedom of association, and other applicable human rights. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such actions have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.