On January 14, 2021, police used tear gas against students protesting a government proposal to increase police presence on university campuses.
In 2019, when the current government came into power, it abolished a 1982 law preventing police entry to university campuses. On January 13, 2021, the government introduced draft legislation on the policing of universities and permissible campus expression. The announcement prompted a series of protests by student groups who fear the legislation will limit freedom of expression on campus. Mass gatherings are currently banned under Greece’s coronavirus lockdown laws.
In Athens, hundreds of students and members of left-wing political groups gathered near the University of Athens campus to protest the legislation. Riot police were deployed and formed a line to prevent protesters from marching out onto the street. Reports and video of the protest indicate that police discharged tear gas in an effort to disperse the crowds.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of tear gas 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 Greece is a party. State and university 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, police force intended to restrict student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.