On October 17, 2018, police officers used excessive force and arrested two students during a protest at the University of West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine Campus.
UWI students organized a protest in connection to safety issues on campus, including a recent case of alleged sexual assault. A large group of protestors had gathered at a campus gate where they formed a human chain to block access to campus. Police arrived on campus and clashed with students while attempting to disperse them. Police arrested two students, Brian Richards and Nathaniel John, during the protest; it is not clear why the students were arrested. The next day, the two students were released on bail and ordered to appear in court on November 16.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violent force and arrests of students during a nonviolent campus protest—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 Trinidad and Tobago is a party. While state authorities have a right to maintain security and order, they must refrain from the use of force, arrests, and other actions that interfere with or are used to retaliate against the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.