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: March 08, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Colombo

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Sri Lanka

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 8, 2023, police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse more than 500 university teachers and students protesting in the city of Colombo against the use of force by police on University of Colombo students during a protest staged the previous day, March 7, 2023 (see report).

The Student Union of the University of Colomb organized the march. Members of the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) and University of Colombo Federation of University Teachers Association also participated in the protest. As the protesters neared the National Museum, the police reportedly used both water cannons and tear gas to deter from proceeding.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of water cannons and tear gas 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 an obligation to not restrict 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 generally.

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