Rights watchdog Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned the use of excessive force by police against protesting university students in South Africa.
Police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at students of Wits University in Johannesburg, who were protesting against the administration’s decision to bar registration of students who have not cleared outstanding dues.
A 35-year-old man, reportedly a bystander not part of the demonstration, was fatally injured in the incident.
“We are seriously alarmed at reports that one person has been killed, allegedly by the police, and countless others shot at with rubber bullets,” Shenilla Mohamed, Amnesty International’s executive director for South Africa, said in a statement.
“Security forces must guarantee students’ right to peaceful assembly and refrain from using excessive force. Students have a right to express their grievances and the authorities must respect this right.”
She stressed that police must also ensure the protection of all bystanders and “no one should die or be injured while exercising their basic rights.”
Mohamed called on law enforcement officials to comply with international and national laws and standards governing the use of force in policing protests, and only use force when necessary and proportionate.
“We call on the university authorities, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to expedite a prompt, independent and effective investigation into the shooting that led to the death of a bystander,” she said.
The IPID said late on Wednesday that it has dispatched four officers to probe the incident in Johannesburg and ascertain whether police officials were responsible for killing the bystander.
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