Amnesty International Australia urges universities to protect students’ right to protest

In response to universities’ orders to dismantle Gaza Solidarity encampments, Amnesty International Australia urges universities to protect and support students’ rights to peaceful and safe protest on campus.

Amnesty International Australia stands in solidarity with student protests and urges universities to uphold their campuses as spaces where freedom of expression, academic freedom, and the right to peaceful assembly are embraced, safeguarded, and protected.

“University campuses should be spaces for academic freedom, open debate, and the right to protest,” says Mohamed Duar, Occupied Palestinian Territories Spokesperson.

“Gaza Solidarity encampments situated on university campuses are peaceful, and must be protected, safeguarded, and embraced. They display the right of student protestors to exercise their fundamental human rights whilst fostering a sense of community and solidarity with Gaza, particularly in their calls for university divestment. This solidarity across the World has been so widespread that it has been acknowledged by the civilians in Gaza who are in the most horrific of circumstances surviving a humanitarian catastrophe for over seven months.

“Students have every right to protest how their tuition fees are allocated, and universities should respect and support these expressions of freedom of expression.

Mohamed Duar, Occupied Palestinian Territories Spokesperson

“Across the World, student protests have been at the centre of fundamental human rights struggles for generations. We are witnessing the largest anti war protests ever and must remember the historic role that students played in demanding civil rights in the USA, First Nations justice in Australia, the end to apartheid in South Africa and the end of the Iraq war.

“Both universities and Governments must not attack cultural rights by attempting to ban the Keffiyeh, a symbol of freedom for Palestinians across the World.”

Under international human rights standards, protests can only be restricted if there is a risk to national security, public safety, public order, public health or morals. Any restriction must be prescribed by law, pursue a legitimate aim, be necessary and proportionate, and be applied without discrimination. To prohibit, restrict and impose disciplinary action over statements such as ‘from the river to the sea’ is not legitimate, and is disproportionate and discriminatory and unlawful in accordance with international human rights standards.

The right to assemble in public spaces must be protected, the obligation to facilitate protests must be upheld, with central consideration for the safety of protestors, and their right to exercise freedom of expression. Additionally universities should implement appropriate measures to keep protesters safe from violence by third party actors.

Amnesty abhors Islamophobia, antisemitism and all forms of racism. The right to be free from discrimination is a fundamental human right, and all governments and universities are obliged to take action to combat discrimination in all its forms.