Five Human Rights Violations by South African Universities towards #Feesmustfall Protesters

Five Human Rights Violations by South African Universities towards #Feesmustfall Protesters

In 2016, South Africa witnessed the emergence of the #FeesMustFall movement, a student-led protest demanding affordable and accessible higher education for all. While the movement highlighted legitimate concerns, the reactions of some South African universities towards the protesters led to a series of human rights violations.

Five Human Rights Violations by South African Universities towards #Feesmustfall Protesters

In this section, we aims to explain five specific human rights violations that occurred during this period:

  1. Excessive Use of Force: One of the most significant human rights violations during the #FeesMustFall protests was the excessive use of force by security personnel and police officers. Numerous reports and video evidence showed law enforcement agents using tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons against peaceful protesters. Such actions violated the protesters’ right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom from cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.
  2. Arbitrary Arrests and Detentions: Another human rights violation involved arbitrary arrests and detentions of #FeesMustFall protesters. Many students were taken into custody without proper legal justification or due process. They were held for prolonged periods without charges being filed, denied access to legal representation, and subjected to harsh conditions in overcrowded and unsanitary prison facilities. These actions infringed upon the protesters’ right to liberty and security of person.
  3. Suppression of Freedom of Expression: South African universities also violated the protesters’ right to freedom of expression. University administrations, in some cases, imposed restrictions on students’ ability to express their grievances openly and participate in peaceful protests. Campuses were shut down, suspensions and disciplinary actions were taken against student activists, and media coverage of the protests was suppressed. These actions stifled free speech and infringed upon the right to express dissenting opinions.
  4. Intimidation and Harassment: During the #FeesMustFall protests, student activists faced intimidation and harassment from various actors. This included threats from university officials, security personnel, and outside individuals seeking to silence their voices. Such actions created an atmosphere of fear and discouraged students from exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
  5. Inadequate Access to Education: One of the core demands of the #FeesMustFall movement was to address the issue of exorbitant tuition fees and limited access to higher education. However, instead of engaging in dialogue and finding solutions, some South African universities responded by suspending classes, closing campuses, and preventing students from attending lectures. These actions deprived students of their right to education and hindered their academic progress, further exacerbating existing inequalities.

The reactions of South African universities towards the #FeesMustFall protesters in 2016 resulted in several human rights violations. Excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, suppression of freedom of expression, intimidation, harassment, and inadequate access to education were among the key violations documented during that time. Recognizing and addressing these violations is crucial to ensuring the protection of human rights and promoting a more inclusive and equitable higher education system in South Africa.

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