On October 19, 2018, campus security reportedly used violent force against students demonstrating at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
Students, along with KNUST alumni, had reportedly gathered on campus to protest the administration’s decision to suspend so-called “morale” a fifty-year-old campus tradition of Friday night singing and dancing.The decision was apparently connected to university order to convert male dormitories to gender-mixed dormitories.
As the students were beginning to gather, security officers arrived and asked them to leave. The students reportedly refused. Shortly thereafter, over twenty armed campus security officers arrived and used stun guns, batons, and tasers against the students, in an apparent effort to disperse them. Officers reportedly chased after one student and violently beat him; he was later hospitalized. Security officers further detained 11 students. The students were then taken into custody at a police station, held overnight, and released the next day on bail. It is unclear whether they were charged. In the days following this incident, students at KNUST engaged in violent protests, ultimately leading to the indefinite closing of KNUST.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violent force against and detentions of students during a nonviolent campus demonstration—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ghana is a party. While university and state authorities have a right to maintain security and order, they must refrain from the use of force, arrests, and other actions that interfere with or are used to retaliate against the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.