On November 21, 2018, police reportedly violently clashed with students protesting at Central University of Venezuela (UCV).
On “University Student Day,” which marks the anniversary of a student-led rebellion against former military strongman Marcos Pérez Jiméneza, about four hundred students gathered on UCV’s campus where they planned to march to the Ministry of Higher Education to demand better conditions at universities and protest the economic crisis.
Hundreds of police and national guard officers armed in riot gear reportedly blocked the students from exiting the campus. Students reportedly tried to negotiate with authorities to let them pass. Officers told the students they were not permitted to leave UCV’s campus because they had not been granted authorization to march through the streets. After an hour of negotiating, officers reportedly began to throw tear gas at the student protesters. Some students reportedly responded by throwing bottles and stones. Several students were hospitalized due to tear gas inhalation.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violence against students in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and 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 Venezuela is a party. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the nonviolent exercise of these rights and to refrain from the use of force intended to restrict them. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.