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: October 15, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of La Guajira

Region & Country:Americas | Colombia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 15, 2019, the Mobile Anti-Rioting Squad (ESMAD) reportedly violently clashed with University of La Guajira (UG) students.

Starting on October 10, students from various higher education institutions held protests in the streets across Colombia challenging corruption in universities and demanding the dismantling of the Mobile Anti-Rioting Squad (ESMAD) over allegations of police brutality. During several of the protests, ESMAD used violent force and detentions against students (see report).

On October 15, UG students held a demonstration blocking the Troncal del Caribe highway in front of UG’s campus. ESMAD officers reportedly arrived and fired tear gas and lead pellets at students, who threw blunt objects, including rocks, in return. Roimer Roys, an engineering student at UG was hospitalized after sustaining an injury to his right cheekbone from rubber pellets. Roya reportedly underwent surgery for his injury. Adrián Gustavo Gamboa Parra, an ESMAD Lieutenant, was also reportedly hospitalized for an eye injury after being hit with a blunt object.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a student protest. While students have rights to freedom of expression and assembly, they have an obligation to exercise such rights peacefully and responsibly; likewise, state authorities must take measures to maintain a safe campus space and refraining from responding disproportionately to student protests and working to deescalate potentially volatile situations. Violence during student protests undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.