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: November 28, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Warsaw University of Technology

Region & Country:Europe | Poland

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 28, 2020, police reportedly fired tear gas at students during a protest at Warsaw University of Technology (WUT).

WUT students held a demonstration as part of a nationwide Women’s Strike in response to an October 22 constitutional court ruling banning abortions, including in cases when the fetus has no chance of survival. The ruling sparked immediate, nationwide protests. When students attempted to continue their protest off campus, police entered a campus building and blocked them from leaving. According to the Students’ Antifascist Committee, police chased several students who were off campus onto WUT’s campus and fired tear gas at them.

The WUT rector publicly denounced the police actions and asked for an explanation from local authorities In a letter, the Capital City Police Commander responded that the actions were not meant to target the academic community or university autonomy, and expressed regret for the police action.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against 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 Poland is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting student-led protest activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent force intended to restrict student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.