HONDURAS: Police and students clash

Riot police responded harshly on 5 August to growing student rallies outside the National Autonomous University in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. Tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse some 3,000 students rallying in support of the country's ousted president, Manuel Zelaya.

Last Wednesday, Zelaya's supporters chanted slogans and hurled rocks at riot police, leaving the street strewn with detritus, including the husk of a burnt-out vehicle. Police responded harshly, forcing many of the students inside the university campus. They then entered the campus using tanks and many students were beaten with batons.

The university's rector, Julieta Castellanos, intervened in an attempt to calm both sides but she too was beaten to the floor. A NEAR source has revealed the police also opened fire on students inside the campus, injuring one of them.

Further protests are expected in the coming days with more Zelaya supporters marching to Tegucigalpa from various regions of Honduras and were expected to converge on the capital last Monday. President Manuel Zelaya was bundled out of the country after a military-backed coup on 28 June, prompting international outrage and a domestic crisis that shows few signs of abating.

ZAMBIA: Police assault peace researchers

Two Zambian academics were allegedly nearly beaten to death by police while on a research trip in one of the country's remote districts, forcing them to abandon their project midstream. The academics were researching the role of Zambia in peace brokering in Southern Africa.

Copperbelt University lecturers Edward Nkonde and Ephraim Munshimfwa were hospitalised following the assaults in which a colleague, Progress Chongo, was lucky to escape unharmed.

They were on a field trip to Kawanbwa in Luapula province. They had also intended to visit Kala Refugee Camp for data collection for research being conducted under the aegis of the Dag Hammarskjöld Chair for Peace, Human Rights and Conflict, based in Kitwe.

The incident happened in March this year but Nkonde issued a statement only two weeks ago following absence from work and hospitalisation at Wusakile Hospital as a result of the assaults.

In the statement, he said the beatings occurred after police mistook the academics for thieves who had raided the remote area during their research trip.

"After 23.30 hours, I heard a knock at my door and people shouting 'open! police!' I was sure they were knocking at a wrong door and so I asked them whether they were at the right door or not. But they continued to bang on my door. I then decided to open," Nkonde said.

Immediately three policemen - two in plain clothes and one in police uniform - entered the room and started searching it before looting his money and ordering him outside.

The lecturer said when his colleague Ephraim Munshimfwa decided to run and called for help, he fell and one of the policemen aimed a gun at him. But the policeman refrained from pulling the trigger when the lecturer grabbed another policeman to use as a human shield.

A crowd gathered, Nkonde claimed in his statement, and joined in the assault after the police told them that the lecturers were thieves. "I was then hit with a brick and I fell down and all the people descended on us. In the meantime, a police officer started hitting me with a gun which caused a deep cut on my leg."

Nkonde said the lecturers were taken to a police station where they were detained overnight, only to be told the next day that the police had mistaken them for thieves following a tip they had received on the whereabouts of a group of criminals who had earlier stolen money in the area.

The academics were then accused of having caused "confusion" and made to apologise under duress before being told to sign in a book that they had been severely warned.

The lecturer did not say whether they were pressing charges against police but indicated they intend to forge ahead with the research.

A Zambian female student is currently suing the police after they allegedly brutalised her during student protests earlier this year. Last year, police shot and injured two students after firing live ammunition at rioting University of Zambia students.

ZIMBABWE: Student leaders detained in fees protest

Police have arrested four student leaders after a foiled protest at Zimbabwe's main university over new tuition fees, according to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). The four detainees are reportedly representatives of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) at the University of Zimbabwe.

They were arrested as they addressed students about a decision by authorities at the institution to bar students who have not paid their tuition fees from attending lectures or using the library. ZLHR have publicly said that this represents a breach of students' freedom of assembly, association and expression.

The University of Zimbabwe reopened on 3 August after closing in February but the majority of its students were not allowed into lecture rooms after failing to pay a deposit on the US$400 in tuition fees. The student leaders' arrest has drawn condemnation from Amnesty International.

MEXICO: Lack of progress in murder of Mexican anthropologist

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) has expressed concern about the lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of the anthropologist, author and indigenous rights activist Miguel Angel Gutierrez Avila, who was beaten to death in Guerrero state in July 2008. A year on, there has been silence from the Mexican authorities and the crime would appear to remain unsolved.

International PEN has written to the Mexican authorities asking for assurances that a full and impartial investigation into the murder of Avila is being carried out, and for details of any progress in the investigation to date.

A few days before his death, Gutierrez had visited the Suljaa' and Cozoyoapan communities in Costa Chica, Guerrero, in connection with a documentary film he was making on indigenous cultures and traditions.

During his last visit to the area, Gutierrez documented alleged human rights violations on the part of the authorities against the staff of Radio Nomndaa/La Palabra del Agua (The Word of the Water), including an interview with one of the station's founders which he reportedly intended to include in his documentary.

UK: Vice-chancellor calls for a cut in student numbers

Professor Michael Arthur, Vice-chancellor of Leeds University and the incoming head of the Russell Group of universities, said that leading institutions should cut student numbers rather than reducing resources devoted to students in response to a fall in funding caused by tight public finances.

The announcement suggests it could become even harder to win a place in the country's best institutions. Arthur also raised the prospect of higher fees as a response to potential spending cuts.

According to The Telegraph, the professor of medicine said there was little chance that university funding would escape Whitehall spending cuts.

Members of the Russell Group - including Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester universities - are thought to be facing a cut in government funding for university research because of a decision to reward excellence at less research-intensive institutions.

* Jonathan Travis is programme officer for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR). www.nearinternational.org