On July 8, 2022, police fired tear gas and water cannons in an apparent attempt to disperse students participating in an anti-government demonstration.
The Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF) organized the demonstration calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Students marched from the University of Kelaniya through the streets of Colombo. When students attempted to take down and bypass police barricades in front of the Bank of Ceylon Mawatha, police fired tear gas and water cannons at them.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force to restrict students’ 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 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)