Four students of Jaffna University were arrested on December 1. The arrests followed student protests against police suppression of a peaceful commemoration of members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who were killed during the Sri Lankan civil war that ended with LTTE defeat in 2009. Security forces allegedly entered the university campus, surrounded student dorms, and used force against student protesters as they exited the campus. Between twenty and fifty students have been reported injured. Of the four students arrested, two were reported to have been released from detention in a “rehabilitation” center on January 22nd. There is no information available to-date regarding any formal charges against the students, but media reports indicate that they were arrested on suspicion of arson and violation of Sri Lanka’s anti-terrorism laws. Students and faculty of Jaffna University have been on strike since the incident occurred.
UPDATE February 13, 2013: On February 13, the two remaining students were released from detention.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violence and coercive detention against students. Students and other members of higher education communities have the right to engage peacefully in expressive activity, including protests. State and university authorities have a responsibility to protect students engaged in such peaceful activity. When state and university authorities are required to intervene in student protests to maintain order or security, they have a responsibility to do so in a way that respects institutional autonomy, academic freedom and human rights, including by refraining from excessive force or abusive legal process or detention.