On March 11, 2014, Sudanese security forces reportedly opened fire on a group of student protesters on the campus of the University of Khartoum, killing one student, injuring seven more, and reportedly arresting more than 100 students.
The students had reportedly convened a meeting on campus to discuss the Sudanese government’s alleged failure to respond to ongoing violence against civilians in Darfur. Following the meeting, a group of some 200 students began a march off campus, intending to present a memorandum to the UN representative in Khartoum. Upon reaching the university gates, the protesters were met by police, security services and members of a student militia, who reportedly used batons, tear gas, and live bullets to disperse them. As a result of the violence, Ali Abakar Musa Idris, a third year economics student, was killed, while another seven students were critically injured. In addition, police reportedly arrested as many as 110 of the protesters.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent attacks and arrests of students in retaliation for non-violent expressive activity. Excessive force in response to campus protest unnecessarily increases risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State and university authorities have a responsibility to protect students engaged in peaceful protest, including by investigating incidents involving use of force and holding perpetrators of excessive force accountable. At the same time, while students have the right to free expression, that right does not extend to violence or the destruction of property; on-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. Student violence against persons or property also creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.