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: February 22, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Buddhist and Pali University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Sri Lanka

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 22, 2023, police used water cannons and teargas to disperse students from the Inter-University Bikkhu Federation (IUBF) and Buddhist and Pali University Students’ Union who were preparing for a demonstration in demand that Homagama Buddhist and Pali University be opened to all students.

The IUBF, together with Buddhist and Pali students, planned to stage a satyagraha (a passive political protest) demonstration in Homagama, Colombo. The students and police clashed as the protestors tried to construct a temporary platform for the demonstration in the middle of an intersection. Police reportedly used teargas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators before they could start the satyagraha.

Scholars at Risk is concerned with the use of water cannons and teargas to disperse students peacefully exercising their 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 have a responsibility to refrain from restricting the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force to restrict or deter nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society more generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)