Transitional Justice: Success, Failure, and the Case of Sri Lanka

August 2015

Research on transitional justice—the judicial and nonjudicial mechanisms implemented by countries seeking to redress the legacies of mass human rights abuses—has tended to focus on explaining perceived successes of transitional justice mechanisms. This seminar and the wider project of which it is a part are rather different. The seminar uses rigorous analysis of a case often claimed to be a failure of transitional justice—Sri Lanka—to critique the orthodoxy in the transitional justice literature and to reflect upon the prospects for accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka into the future. The seminar gathers academics and practitioners with expertise in transitional justice and the Sri Lankan case and focuses on two questions: (a) Why is transitional justice considered to have failed in Sri Lanka? and (b) Under what conditions does transitional justice succeed? The project is designed to foster collaborative assessments of the impacts of transitional justice, in Sri Lanka and more broadly, and to communicate the findings of the research to the relevant policy communities and civil society groups.