On May 9, 2022, 4 students died and over 80 were injured in a stampede after a tear gas grenade was thrown into the auditorium of Tomás Frías University in Potosí, where students had gathered to participate in student elections.
That day, an estimated 5,000 students gathered in a university auditorium to elect new student body leaders. During the assembly, a tear gas grenade was detonated in the middle of the auditorium, causing the students to panic and creating a stampede as students rushed for the exits. 4 female students died as a result of the stampede and over 80 others were injured – dozens of whom had to be hospitalized.
On May 10, the Potosí police department announced that it had arrested an individual, identified as Manfred F.C., suspected of detonating the tear gas grenade, as well as three other individuals it believed had assisted the suspect in buying the grenade. The police did not identify the four detainees as affiliated with any violent groups, nor did they offer a motive for the attack.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a violent attack against students peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly – conduct which is protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bolivia is a party. Individuals and groups must refrain from taking action to restrict or chill such conduct. State and university authorities should take steps to respond to and prevent such incidents, including by carrying out investigations and holding perpetrators accountable. SAR also extends its condolences to the university community and the victims’ family and friends. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks against peaceful student gatherings undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.