AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
This paper investigates how human rights tropes travel through transnational activist networks seeking justice for war crimes committed during the Bangladesh War of 1971. Focusing on how activists in London draw on human rights reports in articulating justice while not reconciling themselves with ’perpetrators’ of violence during the war, the paper complicates linkages between the concepts of justice and reconciliation. Furthermore, it demonstrates that scholars should engage with the concepts of justice and reconciliation discursively and practically in order to avoid losing sight of the ways they veil power dimensions through universalist legalistic abstractions. The paper does so by mapping the travel, both spatially and temporally, of human rights tropes used to articulate claims of justice in light of protests in Bangladesh and London from 2013 onwards around the International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This tribunal, set up in 2009 to bring to court war criminals from the Bangladesh War, is central in contestations over Bangladesh’s past, present and future. I argue that articulations of justice as an imagined future state of irreconciliation through the selective incorporation of domestic idioms and international human rights tropes, provides a productive entry point to reflect on the possible value of the concept. I explore this dynamic among activists in London who rely on the language of ‘liberal justice’ to justify not reconciling with those having alternative interpretations of the Bangladesh War.