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 27, 2020

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Various Institutions

Region & Country:Europe | Belarus

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 27, 2020, it was reported that President Alexander Lukashenko called for the expulsion of students and faculty participating in nationwide protests. Universities throughout Belarus responded almost immediately with widespread expulsions of student and faculty protesters.

The official results of the August 9 election had President Lukashenko, who first took office in 1994, winning reelection for a sixth term with more than 80% of the vote. The opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was forced to flee to Lithuania after receiving threats. Critics from inside Belarus, as well as international observers, immediately condemned the result, charging that the election was marked by widespread electoral fraud. Concerns about a fraudulent election triggered mass demonstrations, often led by university students, across the country. Police frequently responded to protests with arrests and violent force.

On October 26, police arrested dozens of students from various universities participating in protests as part of the beginning of a nationwide strike (see report). The following day, it was reported that President Lukashenko called for the expulsion of students and faculty participating in protests.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about instructions by a state authority that universities expel students and faculty in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a party. State authorities have an obligation not to interfere with or attempt to retaliate for nonviolent expressive activity.