Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



International Relations


Truth Commissions, Sri Lanka, Reconciliation


"Since the end of the Cold War, our world has seen an increase in intra-state conflict and the emergence of the notion of state accountability for the treatment of their citizens. Furthermore, sovereign states increasingly see that it is in their interest to apply the rule of law and human rights norms beyond their borders. While peace building efforts have been achieved through criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparation programs, and vetting, a truth commission, in particular, has been progressively used in the past decade as one aspect of transitional justice measures. This increase in use illustrates its popularity in handling sensitive and fragile post-conflict societies. However, unless a state fulfills its obligations to protect the rights of its citizens by implementing recommendations by a truth commission, there is little room for creating a just and peaceful society. Therefore, how the international community deals with volatile post-conflict situations, i.e., the issue of accountability for human rights abuse and reconciliation, has wider implications for global stability. Drawing experiences chronologically from the past three different commissions in El Salvador, South Africa, and Sierra Leone, I will analyze tensions between justice and truth and to what extent truth commissions are effective in promoting reconciliation and achieving a durable peace. Then, taking an example of the recently established commission in Sri Lanka as a case study, I will examine what kind of lessons Sri Lanka can (or cannot) draw from truth and reconciliation processes used in similar cases. For my hypothesis, I will argue that without international pressure or changes within the leadership, institutional reforms or prosecution will not take place. This is especially 3 true with intra-state armed conflicts because international action on protecting human rights may be essential. For the time being, there have been no prosecutions in Sri Lanka to address past abuses, nor institutional reforms to protect people from human rights violation in the future, thus, my hypothesis is correct. For these reasons, Sri Lanka poses a new challenge to countrywide reconciliation and the concept of transitional justice mechanisms, i.e., truth commissions and prosecution. To conclude, this thesis calls for further research to respond to a new challenge that truth commissions are facing in dealing with post-conflict countries."


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