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: June 07, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Novi Sad

Region & Country:Europe | Serbia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 7, 2019, a group of unidentified men attacked students Marko Đelević and Mihajlo Nikolić on the campus of the University of Novi Sad in apparent retaliation for their activism.

Đelević and Nikolić are reportedly both student-activists associated with “For a Roof Overhead,” a local organization that fights forced evictions and “investment urbanism.” On the day of the incident, the two students had both taken part in a protest against a proposed plan by local developers to raze a small park next to two apartment complexes.

Upon returning to campus, Đelević and Nikolić reportedly noticed that they were being followed by a group of men in black sweatshirts as they entered the Faculty of Philosophy. Later that evening, a group of men, presumed to be the same men, beat the two students with metal bars after they exited the building. Unconfirmed media reports have suggested that the assailants were associated with far-right political groups and were not students at the university.

The incident took place one day before another student-activist was attacked on the campus of the University of Novi Sad shortly after attending a protest. Police have reportedly launched an investigation to find the perpetrators of the attack. As of this report, a group of University of Novi Sad professors have reportedly signed a petition condemning the violence, but the university has not issued a public statement.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about an attack on students in apparent retaliation for their nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association. State authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education communities and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.