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 16, 2022

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):National University of Lesotho

Region & Country:Southern Africa | Lesotho

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 16, 2022, members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service opened fire during a protest at the National University of Lesotho, killing one student.

Students had gathered on campus to protest protest reductions in student grants. Some sources described the protest as disruptive, but no specific acts of student violence were reported. Students told News24 that police opened fire without warning. According to Amnesty International, one student Kopano Francis Mokutoane was killed during the shooting, while others were injured.

The police force later suspended a number of officers in connection with the incident.

Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about police opening fire on students in response to a nonviolent campus protest — 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 Lesotho is a party. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain order and safety, they must refrain from lethal force in response to nonviolent student protests and ensure that their responses are proportionate and do not violate students’ rights. The use of lethal force in response to nonviolent student protests undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.