The 1971 Independence War, when Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan, was one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. Official, albeit disputed, figures put the number of deaths near 3 million—a death toll half that of the Holocaust in just nine months. After the war, the then President, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—the Father of the Nation—chose to ‘forgive and forget’; however, this blanket amnesty failed to reflect the people’s desire for justice. Four decades later, the country is bringing to trial the local Bangladeshi collaborators for war crimes tied to the Independence War. Political tensions mount as verdicts of life imprisonment and death sentence are handed down, pushing the country to the verge of protracted civil unrest. This qualitative study explores the potential of a set of values as a foundation for a future reconciliation process in Bangladesh. Drawing on their use in the transitional contexts of Rwanda and Cambodia, four restorative justice (RJ) process values—participation, empowerment, reintegration and transformation—are used as deductive variables in the study. Ten in-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted to explore how these variables could be used to ground a future reconciliation process. Deductive and inductive findings suggest RJ process values could play a guiding role in the reconciliation. Using the values unearthed through the research, a value-based model to ground this process is also proposed.
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Thesis advisor: Morrison, Brenda
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