SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 01, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Central American University

Region & Country:Americas | Nicaragua

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 1, 2019, police reportedly surrounded and fired rubber bullets outside a peaceful student protest at Central American University (UCA).

Starting in April 2018, students and other civil society groups across Nicaragua led demonstrations protesting austerity measures, demanding democratic reforms, and calling for president Daniel Ortega to step down. At least 317 people have been killed, more than 1,870 injured, and at least 700 detained in connection with the protests. On September 29, 2018, authorities announced an indefinite ban on public protests.

On February 27, 2019, president Ortega released 100 of those who were wrongfully imprisoned during the demonstrations; however they reportedly remain under house arrest and under close surveillance.

Students at UCA organized a campus protest on March 1 to call for the release of the remaining imprisoned protesters. Armed police reportedly surrounded the university as students began to protest. Journalists on the scene reported that police situated outside the university walls fired rubber bullets, striking and injuring Univision reporter Tifani Roberts. It is unclear what exactly the police targeted and if anyone else was injured.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force during a peaceful student 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 the Democratic Republic of Nicaragua is a party. While state authorities have a right to maintain order and security, they have an obligation to refrain from the use of force to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force during peaceful campus protests undermines freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.