On April 13, 2022, Duminda Nirantha Perera, a provincial council member from the majority political party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), assaulted University of Kelaniya students during a nonviolent demonstration.
Beginning April 9, protests spread across the country calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as the country has suffered a worsening economic crisis.
The University of Kelaniya students were reportedly setting up a small stage during the course of a protest, when Perera attempted to destroy the stage and proceeded to beat students – many were reportedly admitted to the hospital as a result.
Scholars at Risk is concerned a physical attack against students in retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct which is protected by 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. Government officials have a responsibility to refrain from physical violence and respect the rights of students to peacefully gather and engage in protest. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on student gatherings undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)