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 12, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):National University of San Antonio Abad of Cusco

Region & Country:Americas | Peru

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 12, 2020, police reportedly arrested at least two students during a peaceful protest at the National University of San Antonio Abad of Cusco (UNSAAC).

A group of roughly fifty students were protesting on the UNSAAC campus, demanding that the university provide vouchers for free internet access while students are attending virtual classes. At the time of the protest, universities in Peru and many other countries suspended in-person academic activities in order to contain the spread of a novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Sources indicate that the students held banners and chanted slogans while marching near and stopping in front of several university buildings. Available sources, including video recordings, suggest that the students were peaceful and adhered to social distancing practices in an effort to prevent spread of COVID-19. At one point, however, police carrying riot shields attempted to break up the protest and arrested two students carrying a banner. According to a report by the Rural Educational Services Association, as many as eight students were taken into custody. It is unclear whether the students face any charges.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Peru is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting expressive activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions intended to restrict campus expression undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.