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: February 18, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Central University of Venezuela

Region & Country:Americas | Venezuela

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 18, 2020, unidentified individuals discharged tear gas canisters at the Central University of Venezuela, apparently in protest over a court ruling that interferes in Venezuelan university affairs.

This followed a similar incident on February 12, when assailants discharged tear gas during a master class at the UCV Law School in an apparent effort to prevent students from discussing a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice (see report). Among other things, the ruling ordered UCV and other public universities to hold internal elections within six months; ordered universities to weigh votes equally across students, faculty, administrators, and staff; and suspended articles 31, 32, and 65 of the Universities Law, which specify that faculty and leadership appointments are voted upon by their respective peers. Students and administrators at UVC and universities across the country have rejected Sentence 0324 on the basis that the ruling threatens university autonomy and undermines already established university policy.

During the February 18 incident, three tear gas bombs were reportedly discharged at approximately 10:30 AM in the lower corridors where administrative offices are located. UCV’s Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences and the administrative offices were partially evacuated; however, some were trapped in classrooms.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of tear gas on campus. State authorities have an obligation to ensure the safety of campus communities, to investigate violent incidents, and to hold perpetrators accountable. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such acts undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).