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 05, 2024

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Mekelle University

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Ethiopia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 5, 2024, police beat and arrested around 20 peaceful student protesters from Mekelle University.

Mekelle University is located in the conflict-affected Tigray region of Ethiopia. The students were protesting a delay in their graduation after the university revoked a decision to allow them to take additional courses beyond the usual limit in order to make up for the disruptions caused by the conflict.

The students marched with banners from Mekelle’s campus to the city center before police stopped and informed them that their protest was unauthorized and illegal. The police forcibly dispersed the students and hit them with batons and rifles. A video shows an officer pushing a retreating student to the ground. Around 20 students were arrested and at least 13 were released on the same day.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of excessive force against and detention of students for peacefully exercising the 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 Ethiopia is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to respect and refrain from restricting or punishing the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally.