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: April 03, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Various

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Sri Lanka

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 3, 2023, police fired water cannons to disperse a protest march organized by the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) in central Colombo.

The students were marching to the University Grants Commission (UGC) in an effort to meet with a UGC official about alleged, ongoing targeted intimidation of students. After police blocked students from proceeding, students tried to reach the UGC using a different route. Police then attempted to disperse the students using water cannons. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violent force in order to disperse students who are peacefully exercising their right 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. The use of force to restrict or deter nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Sources:

https://colombogazette.com/2023/04/03/water-cannons-fired-on-iusf-protest/ 

https://www.adaderana.lk/news/89535/police-use-water-cannons-to-disperse-iusf-protestors-in-colombo-

https://www.newsfirst.lk/2023/04/03/iusf-goes-to-ugc-for-talks-cops-use-water-cannons/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z86ikOJ460c 

https://www.dailymirror.lk/print/front_page/IUSF-group-seeking-a-meeting-at-UGC-hindered-Police-show-no-mercy-as-repeated-water-cannon-attacks-even-affected-bystanders/238-257129