Amnesty International Australia

05/14/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/13/2024 21:25

Amnesty International Australia stands in solidarity with university student protests

14 May 2024

10 MAY 2024

Amnesty International Australia stands in solidarity with students courageously protesting Australian universities' associations with the Israeli military and government and against the human rights catastrophe being inflicted on the civilians of Gaza. Amnesty International has documented a series of war crimes perpetrated by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) against civilians and has repeatedly expressed grave concerns at the International Court of Justice's finding that Israel is at risk of committing genocide in against the people of Gaza and reiterates its call for an immediate, sustained ceasefire protect civilian lives.

In recent weeks students, in Australia and around the world, have set up camps on campuses protesting Israel's brutal war on Gaza. Students have also protested their universities' ties with the Israeli government and weapons manufacturers.

Australian university students who have set up encampments on university grounds across the country are engaging in peaceful protest. Peaceful protest is a powerful exercise of the fundamental human rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression, and of association. These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

History has shown us that protest is powerful. From the end of apartheid in South Africa to the protection of the Franklin river, students have always been leaders in protest movements that have made the world a better place. Here in Australia, universities have long been sites of protest by students against war, from pressuring universities to endorse the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam to mass student walkouts against Australia's involvement in the Iraq war.

We stand in solidarity with university student protests and call on all Australians to follow the lead of students to pressure the government to ensure Australia does not supply weapons or weapon parts to the Israeli military.

- Amnesty International Australia (@amnestyOz) May 10, 2024

Divestment campaigns have a similarly long and proud history in Australian protest movements, including powerful divestment campaigns led by the BDS movement in Australia. Notably, in the last decade a powerful protest movement and divestment campaign of students at the Australian National University successfully forced the university to commit to divestment from fossil fuel companies, making history in Australia and leading the way for other universities to divest from companies supporting fossil fuels.

Amnesty International Australia expresses its admiration for the courage, and the commitment of these young people to try to achieve change. We continue to be motivated and inspired by Palestinian Australians and their allies who have long led the campaign for Australia to support Palestinian liberation and oppose Israeli systems of apartheid and occupation of Palestinian land. Amnesty International Australia calls on all Australians to follow the lead of students pressuring their universities, workers pressuring their unions, journalists pressuring media companies, and every group of people organising together to pressure the Australian government to ensure Australia does not supply weapons or weapon parts to the Israeli military and to in turn apply international pressure for a permanent ceasefire, a return of all civilian hostages held by Hamas, and for the immediate provision of urgently needed humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Their right to protest should be protected and students should be able to peacefully and safely protest on campus.

In the United States, university administrations and the police violently repressed largely peaceful protests on campuses across the country. Amnesty is concerned that Australian students have faced violence from counter-protesters. These include fireworks being fired into the University of Adelaide camp and repeated attacks on the Monash university camps. According to reports, Monash students have been assaulted, harassed, and had their property damaged by the counter-protesters.

Under internal human rights standards authorities have a responsibility to respect, protect, and facilitate people's right to peaceful protest.

We call on state governments, police, and universities to work with students to facilitate their right to peacefully protest. This includes ensuring those taking part in the protests can do so safely and without the threat of violence by third party actors and counter-protesters. This also includes a commitment to de-escalating tensions and to refrain from dispersing protests except as a last resort.

Amnesty International condemns hate speech directed against Jewish and Palestinian communities in the strongest possible terms. The right to be free from discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights. Accordingly, universities have a responsibility to address any incidents of antisemitism, racism, and Islamophobia, and to take measures to prohibit discrimination and protect all staff and students from discrimination.

Amnesty is monitoring responses to campus protests around the world and in Australia, to hold authorities accountable for any failures to act in accordance with these standards. We call on state governments, police, and universities to work with protesters to facilitate people's right to peacefully protest.

As Israel's brutal war in Gaza grows more devastating each day, it's no wonder so many students are moved to protest. All states must respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly, urgently suspend arms transfers to Israel and call for a ceasefire now.

- Amnesty International Australia (@amnestyOz) April 29, 2024