MA Major Research Papers

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Sri Lanka continues to demonstrate the challenges of implementing legitimate transitional justice mechanisms in a post-conflict state ruled by its victors. While the island-nation of Sri Lanka has managed to sustain relative peace for over a decade, the government’s outstanding human rights record remains a concern for the country’s minority ethnic groups. While there is substantial evidence against the Sri Lankan Army to validate the human rights abuses and war crimes alleged by Tamil civilians, little has been done to hold these individuals accountable. Within the sphere of liberal international order, a victor’s peace, such as Sri Lanka’s, would likely face Western pressure to abide by international law and prosecute these individuals, at the risk of facing economic repercussions. Nonetheless, Sri Lanka has refused to prosecute any government officials or Sri Lankan Army officers; yet, their post-war economy has nearly wholly recovered, due to its increasingly close relations with China. On this premise, this paper will analyze how China continues to defy liberal international norms, as demonstrated by the Sino-Lankan relationship. This paper will begin by defining transitional justice and the liberal international norms fostered by Western hegemony for the later portion of the twentieth century. It will then proceed by discussing how China has challenged liberal international norms in recent decades, through its growing economic dominance and vested international interests. This paper will then analyze the war crimes and human rights violations that took place during Sri Lanka’s civil war and the failing transitional justice mechanisms that followed. Finally, this paper will conclude with an in-depth analysis of the Sino-Lankan relationship. Ultimately, this paper will argue that China is able to challenge Western norms and liberal international order, by providing an appealing alternative model for illiberal states, through its prioritization of sovereign equality over all other foreign policy principles.