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: April 12, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Sierra Leone

Region & Country:Western Africa | Sierra Leone

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 12, 2021, police arrested and used tear gas against students participating in a protest at the University of Sierra Leone’s Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) in Freeport. Several students sustained injuries, including a female student who was stripped and beaten. 

Hundreds of students demonstrated at IPAM to protest the university’s publication of a list of graduates that excluded hundreds of students who had expected to graduate this term. Although the gathering was initially peaceful, reports indicate that some students threw stones at university buildings and smashed university property. Police entered the campus, used tear gas against students, and clashed violently with them. Police stripped, beat, and arrested a female student. Four other students were also arrested. Many more were injured.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during on-campus protests, and about the arbitrary detention of students exercising their 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 Sierra Leone is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions in response to peaceful student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally. While students have a right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they must exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. State authorities must likewise exercise restraint and refrain from disproportionate responses to violent or destructive actions. Violence and the destruction of campus property harm the ability of higher education communities to safely and adequately conduct research, teaching, and other academic activities, undermining academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).