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: December 03, 2012

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment | Other

Institution(s):Al Jazeera University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Sudan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 2, 2012 students at Al Jazeera University met with administrators to appeal the denial of tuition waivers for Darfuri students. The students claimed that under the Darfur Peace Agreement, Darfuri students are exempt from the payment of tuition fees however inconsistent interpretation of the provision has led to the denial of waivers at some universities.  Police arrived on campus following the meeting and arrested 11 students who had attended. 
The next day, December 3, students organized a peaceful sit-in on campus to protest the arrests and the university’s policy regarding the waivers. According to reports, security officials and pro-government students dispersed the gathering with tear gas and metal rods, driving some students off campus. More than 50 students were arrested, most of whom were released days later on bail. Six students were reported missing. Of these four were found dead in an irrigation canal near campus on December 6 and 7, their bodies bearing signs of possible abuse. (At the time of reporting, the other two students remained missing.)
University administrators claimed the students had drowned in the shallow waters of the canal, while government authorities refused to release the medical examiner’s report. A lawyer for one of the deceased students’ families was arrested after requesting the report. On December 10, Sudan’s Justice Ministry announced the formation of a commission of inquiry into the deaths. Several NGOs have expressed concern over the transparency and independence of the commission.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about alleged improper and excessive force against students engaged in expressive activity, and especially about allegations of physical abuse and killing of students by unknown individuals. Students and other members of higher education communities have the right to engage peacefully in expressive activity, including protesting education policies.  State and university authorities have a responsibility to protect students engaged in such peaceful activity, and to ensure the perpetrators of violent attacks are held accountable.  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.
UPDATE: This report is followed by an update. To view, please click here.