On June 23, 2018, state security forces attacked students protesting at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAM), resulting in the deaths of two students and over a dozen students injured.
Since April 2018, Nicaraguans have held demonstrations across the country to protest austerity measures ordered by President Daniel Ortega, as well as corruption in government and the electoral system, among other issues. Human rights groups have reported scores of protesters killed in clashes with state security forces, with hundreds more injured.
As part of the protest movement, students at UNAM and other universities in Nicaragua have occupied their campuses; some student protesters have reportedly engaged in armed conflict against pro-government forces. On the morning of June 23, state security forces reportedly used violence against students occupying the UNAM campus, which reportedly included the firing of live ammunition, apparently in an effort to deter the students from participating in a march later that day.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes and the use of lethal force by police in response to a campus protest. While authorities have a legitimate obligation to maintain security and order on campus, such actions must be proportional to the situation and must not restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression or assembly; where such restrictions become violent, authorities must conduct thorough investigations and respond appropriately. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.