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: January 08, 2024

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Information and Communication Technologies

Region & Country:Western Africa | Mauritania

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 8, 2024, police violently dispersed a peaceful student protest organized by the National Union of Mauritanian Students (UNEM) outside of Mauritania’s Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Information and Communication Technologies. An unknown number of students were arrested.

The students were protesting for increased access to housing, transportation assistance, and the transparent allocation of scholarships. Police forcefully dispersed the protesters and at least three students were transported to the hospital with injuries. Police arrested UNEM Secretary-General Mohamed Yahya Al-Mustafa, along with an unspecified number of other students. There was no information publicly available on how long they were detained.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of excessive force against and detention of students for peacefully exercising 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 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Mauritania is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to respect and refrain from restricting or punishing the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Sources:
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)
https://alakhbar.info/?q=node/51879
https://saharamedias.net/220007/
https://www.alquds.co.uk/إصابات-واعتقالات-في-مظاهرات-طلابية-بم/ 
https://www.facebook.com/unem.mr/posts/761565686000923
https://www.facebook.com/unem.mr/posts/761635495993942
https://www.facebook.com/unem.mr/posts/761617492662409
https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=2024021820514450