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: September 10, 2020

Attack Types: Prosecution

Institution(s):National University of Córdoba

Region & Country:Americas | Argentina

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 10, 2020, it was reported that the Federal Court of Appeals of Córdoba ratified the prosecution of twenty-seven students from the National University of Córdoba (UNC) in apparent retaliation for their participation in protests in 2018. The court’s action allowed the case to move forward.

On August 28, 2018, students occupied a campus building called the Argentine Pavilion as part of a nationwide strike conducted by university faculty to protest low wages and public education budget cuts. The occupation continued until September 27, 2018. The day students left the building, a Federal Prosecutor presented a criminal action against them for “usurpation.”

On June 26, 2019, a federal judge, Hugo Vaca Narvaja, ordered twenty-seven of the students prosecuted; the Federal Court of Appeals of Córdoba confirmed the prosecution in September 2020. On March 2, 2021, it was reported that the prosecutor requested that the students be fined 50,000 pesos ($553.74 USD) and that the court open a separate case against Leticia Celli, UNC professor and lawyer, for allegedly providing legal advice to the students.

The Faculty of Social Sciences of UNC issued statements condemning the court’s decision to move forward with the prosecution of the students.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution of students in apparent retaliation for their 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 for Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Argentina is a party. State authorities are obligated to refrain from restricting or retaliating against nonviolent expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, prosecutions intended to punish expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.