On October 9, 2018, Mauritanian authorities reportedly detained two students during a nonviolent protest outside the Ministry for Higher Education and Scientific Research (MESRS) in Nouakchott.
Student unions and associations from various universities organized the protest in response to MESRS’s decision to bar over 1,000 high school graduates over the age of 25 from pursuing higher education in Mauritania. At the protest, police detained two students. As of this report, the status of the students, including whether they have been charged, is unknown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students in apparent relation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Mauritania is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from actions that restrict such rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions aimed at limiting freedom of expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.