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: June 27, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):East Nile University College

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Sudan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 27, 2019, paramilitary forces reportedly beat, fired tear gas at, and detained dozens of students from East Nile University College during a peaceful protest.

Protests had been ongoing throughout Sudan since December 19, 2018, when demonstrators — frequently led by scholars, students, and professional groups — began demanding President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation, and protesting over food shortages. After the military ousted al-Bashir in April, the protests continued, with demonstrators demanding a transition to a civilian government, rather than the transitional military council which many see as a continuation of al-Bashir’s regime. State security forces violently cracked down on these protests. As of June 12, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a professional body that has expressed its support for the protesters, estimated at least 118 people have been killed and hundreds more injured while the state news agency accounted for 46 fatalities and the director general of the health ministry reported 61 fatalities.

On June 27, University of East Nile students were participating in protests in Khartoum demanding a civilian government, when they were confronted by members of the Rapid Support Forces, (RSF), a paramilitary group. RSF members reportedly fired tear gas, beat, and detained several of the students. RSF troops also reportedly surrounded the University of East Nile campus, where they beat students, searched their belongings, and detained them. As of this report, the location of the detained students has not been made public.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence against and detentions of students in connection to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party. The use of violence and detentions to restrict peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.