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WAR CRIMES, JUSTICE AND THE POLITICS OF MEMORY 

Bina D’Costa

A violent war raging in South Asia in 1971 resulted in the creation of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation-State.  Four decades on, Bangladesh has re-initiated a domestic war crimes trial process that contains its own power dynamics, exclusions and silences.  This article weaves through divergent layers of the complex politicisation of memory by various actors to recapture certain aspects of the normative contestation that underpins assertions of justice and questions of accountability and transparency as Bangladesh reckons with its past. It provides a brief background of the current impasse, the fractured process and the hierarchical nature of various international discursive interventions de-legitimising the trials and considers popular protests in Shahbagh, Dhaka through which collective remembrance becomes a distinct and disputed social and political practice.

Bina D’Costa works on the nexus between development, human rights and security in South Asia. She was previously the Convener of the Bachelor Program in Security Analysis with the Australian National University and taught at the Politics and IR program of the School of Culture, History and Languages. She is currently on sabbatical as a visiting fellow at the the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies and the Refugee Studies Center, Oxford University.

Bina has contributed to various projects in Bangladesh, Burma/Myanmar, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand; and worked as a policy analyst for the Vanderbilt University, UNRISD (United Nations Research in Social Development), UNDP (United Nations Development Program), AusAID and DfID (Department for International Development, UK).  She serves in the editorial board of the International Journal for Transitional Justice and is an associate editor for the International Journal of Feminist Politics.

Her research interests include- war crimes, genocide and struggles for justice; human security, displacement and borders; gender and conflict; children and war; and political violence in social movements.

 Research projects she is involved in:

Political Violence, Displacement and Social Movements: Bina’s large six country fieldwork based project is on violence and human rights movements in Asia. She is investigating various ‘justice seeking’ processes/movements emerging within displaced communities in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

Human Security and Borders: Bina has been involved in various policy-oriented projects on borders, identity and human security, focusing on refugees, IDPs and Stateless people in South Asia.  She works with Indigenous groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and Northeast India, Rohingya, Tamil and Afghan refugee networks.

Children and War: Bina has conducted extensive field research on ‘war babies’ with special focus to the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 and the children of Partition of India.  This project has developed largely out of Bina’s activist work. She is involved with human rights groups that focus on children’s rights in South Asia.

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