On November 28, 2018 Chilean national police reportedly used force against a group of law students from the University of Valparaíso, as they engaged in a nonviolent protest outside the university’s Faculty of Law building. One student was injured in the confrontation.
The law students had reportedly gathered in front of the Faculty of Law to show support for port employees, who were engaged in a separate protest over labor conditions and compensation, among other issues. When Chilean national police, known as Carabineros, arrived on campus to disperse the protesters, the protesters sought refuge inside the faculty building. The Carabineros then reportedly turned water cannons on the students, breaking a glass door, and sending fragments flying into the building, where they hit a student protester who had to be hospitalized and received 34 stitches. A university spokesperson condemned the action by the Carabineros, and indicated plans to take the case up with Chile’s National Human Rights Institute and prosecutors.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force by police in an apparent effort to restrict or retaliate against the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Chile is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to not interfere with such 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 and democratic society generally.