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 26, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Distrital University

Region & Country:Americas | Colombia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 26, 2020, at Distrital University in Bogota, students and Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) officers clashed following a student demonstration.

Beginning on November 21, 2019, students, labor unions, indigenous groups, and members of civil society had held a series of nationwide anti-government protests. The protesters’ demands included more funding for public education and the dismantling of ESMAD. Protesters and rights groups alleged that, since the protests began, ESMAD used excessive force against the protesters, including beatings and the abusive use of “less-than-lethal” weapons.

On February 26, a group of roughly 100 students had gathered as part of a sit-in in front of Distrital University in Bogota. Students blocked traffic. Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) officers reportedly arrived to disperse students, soon resulting in physical clashes. No injuries or arrests were reported.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during a campus protest. While students and civil society have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they have an obligation to exercise those rights peacefully and responsibly. State authorities are likewise obligated to ensure the security of higher education communities, and to refrain from violent or disproportionate actions which endanger members of the higher education community. Such violence threatens academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society in general.

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