İstanbul Technical University (İTÜ) officials have launched disciplinary investigations against 24 students after they attended a protest against mass dismissals of academic personnel.
On February 17, 2017, a group of 30 students and academics reportedly gathered without permission in front of the İTÜ Taşkışla campus, where they demonstrated against a February 7 emergency decree, which ordered the dismissal of 330 academics from 49 universities (see report). A disciplinary investigation into the group of protestors was launched on February 21 by the Rector’s Office, claiming that the group did not obtain permission to hold a demonstration and that one of the students interrupted a class in order to recruit more protesters. The students were expected to report to the university’s Board of Directors to present their defense on March 20, 2017.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary investigations launched against students in apparent retaliation for their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association. While higher education officials have a right to maintain order on campus, such actions must be proportionate and must not violate scholars’ and students’ rights to the peaceful exercise of freedom of association, due process, and academic freedom, which are protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.