On May 19, 2022, police fired water cannons and tear gas at students in an apparent attempt to quash a demonstration organized by the Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF) against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Hundreds of students from various institutions marched in Colombo near the president’s house to demand his resignation. It is unclear what prompted police to use force against students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force to restrict students’ 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 Sri Lanka is a party. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and safety, they must do so in a manner that is proportionate and does not violate fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The use of violence to restrict peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)