11th December 2013
Human Rights Students’ Open Letter to University of London: “Lift Protest Ban”
LONDON – Human Rights Students from UCL (University College London) have written an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer of the University of London to request they take action to revoke a court order against student protests on University of London grounds.
Last week, the University of London obtained a court order that bans all “occupational protests” on areas of its campus until June 2014. Anyone who breaches the order can be charged with contempt of court.
On 10 December, which is internationally recognised as Human Rights Day, the signatories of the open letter asked that the University of London consider the impact of its decision on the democratic rights of its students (such as the rights to ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of assembly and association’ that are included in the European Convention on Human Rights), and supports their right to peacefully protest.
The letter suggests that the University should engage in ‘meaningful and respectful dialogue with student-led campaigns, instead of threatening peaceful protestors with legal action’.
Amongst others, the University of London represents University College London, the London School of Economics, the School of Oriental and African Studies and Birkbeck College. All of these institutions offer courses in the study of human rights.
The letter, originally signed by 53 UCL Human Rights students, quickly attracted over 100 solidarity signatures of students and academics from other Universities. Amongst them is Paul Gready, a human rights practitioner and Director of the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York. The letter remains open for additional signatures to be added in solidarity over the coming days.
Paul Gready, Director for the Centre for Applied Human Rights: “The very essence of a university is that it should inspire critical thinking, debate and peaceful protest. The right to peaceful demonstration is a basic human right that should only be curtailed in very particular and clearly argued circumstances – it is profoundly disappointing that these conditions have not been met in this case.”
Aurora Percannella, 24, UCL student: “I signed this letter because universities need to start behaving like democratic educational establishments again, rather than private entities that feel separate from the basic rules governing society”
Laura O’Shea, 22, former University of York student: “University is a place for encouraging debate, not repressing ideas.”
Nick McKenzie, 25, UCL student: “Watching non-violent protestors being kettled into police vans was an unforgivable fall from grace from an institution established to promote free thought and education for all”
Mark Arnold, 25, UCL student: “University buildings are not straightforwardly private property; students are members of the university community and have a right to use the buildings.”