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, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Peradeniya University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Sri Lanka

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 18, 2023, Sri Lankan police used teargas to disperse members of the General Student Union of Peradeniya University, who were holding a protest march.

The students were protesting an online safety bill and a recent decision to allow private universities to confer medical degrees and demanding the removal of Peradeniya University’s Chief Security Officer. Eight students were admitted to the hospital after police fired tear gas to disperse them.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of water cannons to disperse students 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 and detention to restrict or deter nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Sources:
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)
https://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking-news/Police-fire-tear-gas-at-students-protest-march-in-Peradeniya/108-269462
https://www.adaderana.lk/news/94179/police-use-tear-gas-on-peradeniya-university-students-protest