Seminar with Dr. Farah Mihlar: Transitional justice in Sri Lanka

Welcome to Dr. Farah Mihlar's seminar "Exclusivity, rigidity and disconnect: exploring the collapse of transitional justice in Sri Lanka and why the field’s ‘critical turn’ is not translating into practice".  

Dr. Farah's abstract:

The early demise of Sri Lanka’s transitional justice process is often blamed solely on a lack of political will and the subsequent failure of the then government. With the return to political power of those accused of war crimes, the country edging towards authoritarianism, and the emergence of new conflict fault lines; Sri Lanka’s transitional justice ‘project’ has no doubt ended.

Premised on empirical work conducted in Sri Lanka’s conflict affected areas between 2017-2019, I will demonstrate how the transitional justice process, enabled and driven by national elites and international actors, discounted victims and their ideas of justice and remained contextually disconnected, failing to capture and respond to national and ethnic politics. Through analysing the collapse of the Sri Lankan process, this article contributes to current scholarly critiques of the field of transitional justice. It proceeds to interrogate why well-known mistakes were repeated in Sri Lanka and identify empirical barriers to the ‘critical turn’ in transitional justice, supporting efforts to transform the field.

My presentation will draw on previous research on the effects of majoritarianism, religious violence and discrimination targeted against Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority, explore how this has contributed to Islamic extremism and the challenges these new religious dynamics offer to transitional justice. I will also reflect on my latest research in Nepal and Sri Lanka on the role of religious actors in transitional justice.

About the speaker

Dr. Farah Mihlar is a Sri Lankan/British academic and human rights activist. She lectures in conflict studies, human rights and transitional justice at the University of Exeter. Her PhD was on religious changes amongst Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims population during the armed conflict. Her research explored factors behind the rise in Islamic revivalism and extremism among Muslims who were not seen to be part of the country’s ethnic conflict. Her recent work has explored the interlink between these changes and the religious violence faced by Muslims at the hand of Buddhist violent extremists. Farah’s second area of research is on post-conflict justice for minority groups in Sri Lanka, particularly focusing on women. She has more recently extended this research to consider the role of religious actors in transitional justice processes in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Prior to becoming an academic, she had a long-standing career in international human rights working for the UN and INGOs, specialising in minority rights.

Practical Information:

This seminar will be held as a hybrid event, meaning that it is possible to join in person or via Zoom. Please register using the link below and select your preferred attendance modality. If you choose to join us via Zoom, the link to the event and login details will be shared with registered participants well in advance.


Tags: NCHR, Human Rights, Research Group on Human Rights Armed Conflict and the Law of Peace and Security
Published Oct. 7, 2021 8:53 AM - Last modified Oct. 20, 2021 5:56 PM