On May 14, 2022, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, police violently dispersed a group of peaceful protesters in a park outside the University of San Carlos (USAC), demonstrating against what they alleged was a fraudulent election for the position of USAC rector.
Prior to the vote, Guatemala’s University Council prevented rector candidate Jordán Rodas from running due to alleged irregularities, leaving a single candidate in the race, Walter Mazariegos, dean of USAC’s faculty of the humanities and reportedly an ally of the ruling government.
Gathering near the campus in Industry Park where voting was scheduled to occur, protesters alleged that the election was being conducted in a fraudulent and non-transparent manner. Police and hooded individuals reportedly arrived on the scene and confronted the protesters, physically engaging with them and using tear gas to disperse them.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violence to restrict students and activists peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Guatemala is a party. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and safety, they must do so in a manner that is proportionate and does not violate fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The use of violence to restrict peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)