On December 4, 2018, police reportedly fired tear gas and used water cannons against students participating in a protest march in Colombo.
The protest was organized by the Inter University Students’ Federation and began at the University of the Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo. The protesters marched towards the Presidential Secretariat to deliver a letter expressing concern over the alleged repression of students at Rajarata University and South Eastern University. As they approached the Lotus Road roundabout, police on the scene reportedly fired tear gas and used water cannons in an effort to disperse them.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force to restrict nonviolent student expression — 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 Sri Lanka is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from using force to restrict nonviolent expression. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and democratic society generally.