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: November 09, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Sabaragamuwa University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Sri Lanka

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 9, 2023, Sri Lankan police fired water cannons on students from Sabaragamuwa University’s Faculty of Medicine who were conducting a protest march. They also arrested 21 students.

The students planned the march to demand that a Sabaragamuwa Medical Faculty building be immediately opened. Earlier in the day, prior to the protest, police closed down the road on which the march was to take place. During the march, police used water cannons to disperse the students and arrested 21 protesters.

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