In late July and early August 2018, Nicaraguan authorities reportedly ordered the firing of more than forty academics and administrative workers, and the expulsion of 82 university students from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), in connection with student protests that had occurred on campus beginning the prior spring.
Beginning in April 2018, students across Nicaragua had led demonstrations protesting austerity measures, demanding democratic reforms, and calling for President Daniel Ortega to step down. Authorities responded with force — often including live ammunition — leading to the deaths of at least 317 people, and injuries to more than 1,870.
In late July, the Nicaraguan government began ordering UNAN professors and students dismissed. The professors were reportedly dismissed for assisting the student protesters by providing them with food and medical help. The students faced expulsion on grounds including “academic disobedience,” as well as inciting hatred and violence and damaging university property. On August 20, a special commission created by the university “to find out and determine responsibilities in relation to the destruction of the UNAN,” affirmed the student expulsions.
Scholars at Risk is concerned is concerned about the dismissal and expulsions of higher education staff, faculty, and students. While state and university authorities have a right to maintain order and respond to destructive or violent behavior on campus, such actions must comply with applicable human rights obligations, including those relating to freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and due process, which are protected by international human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nicaragua is a party. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with these rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Expulsions and dismissals aimed at limiting such activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.