On June 7, 2023, Sri Lankan police fired teargas and water cannons at members of the Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) marching near Wijerama Junction in Nugengoda, Colombo.
The IUSF was marching with a variety of demands, including the reversal of suspensions of several university student activists, the release from detention of two of its members, Kelum Muddannayake and Dilshan Harshana, an increase in the monthly student allowance, a reduction in the cost of living, and the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of teargas and water cannons 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)