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: October 18, 2022

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Kelaniya

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Sri Lanka

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 18, 2022, riot police arrested at least seven students at a peaceful protest march organized by the Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF). The students were demanding the release of two IUSF activists, Wasantha Mudalige and Galwewa Siridhamma Thera, who were arrested on August 18, 2022 (see report).

The march commenced at University of Kelaniya in Colombo and was meant to continue up Kandy Road; however, police blocked the students from continuing. The police accused the IUSF of not applying for the required approval for the march in advance, and a stand-off between the police and protesters ensued. The police then ordered the students to disperse and arrested at least seven students when they refused. All arrested students were released on bail the following day.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students for the peaceful 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. State authorities must refrain from violating the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The use of detention to restrict peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.