Saturday, March 6, 2021

International body accused DIS of abductions, death threats

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security services (DIS) has been accused of abducting student activists and issuing death threats against lecturers and academics critical of government policies.

This was revealed by Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack in a report released this month. The report which states that, violent attacks on higher education are a widespread problem affecting institutions and personnel worldwide, and governments should take responsibility for protecting them.

The organisation said states should ensure that universities were spaces where professors and students were safe to teach, learn and research, and which were free from threats to their physical and psychological well-being.

The organisation listed Botswana among states were students and lecturers are harassed by security personnel. “In Botswana, the directorate of intelligence and security, created in 2008 partly in response to student demonstrations, has been linked to abductions of student activists and death threats against lecturers and academics critical of government policies”, stated the report.

The report was commissioned by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, or GCPEA, which brings together the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, Human Rights Watch, the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, or IIE-SRF, the Scholars at Risk Network, Protecting Education in Insecurity and Armed Conflict, Save the Children International, UNICEF and the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR.

Among the worst cases were in Syria where, 80 students were killed and about 200 injured in bombings while writing exams at the University of Aleppo in January, and another 12 were killed and 20 injured when a bomb hit the cafeteria at the University of Damascus last March.

On 29 September, 40 Nigerian students died at Yobe State College of Agriculture when armed gunmen, apparently from the Islamist group Boko Haram, stormed their dormitory while they slept.

In Pakistan, nationalist Baloch groups have been implicated in the assassination of university academics yet the government has done little to hold the killers accountable, the report said.

In the Philippines, state military forces shut down universities after attacks on army forces patrolling the campus of Mindanao State University.

And in Sri Lanka, the state used claims of student involvement in insurgency to place monitoring cameras on campuses and to arrest non-violent student protesters.

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