Des Forges GRD ’72, human rights expert, killed in plane crash

Alison Des Forges GRD ’72, one of the world’s leading experts on the human rights violations in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, was among the passengers killed in the commuter plane crash outside Buffalo, N.Y., late Thursday. She was 66 and lived in Buffalo.

Her death was confirmed by Human Rights Watch, the New York-based organization for which she worked for nearly two decades as a senior adviser to its Africa division.

Alison Des Forges GRD '72, one of the world's leading experts on the human rights violations in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, was among the passengers killed in the commuter plane crash outside Buffalo, N.Y., late Thursday.
Alison Des Forges GRD '72, one of the world's leading experts on the human rights violations in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, was among the passengers killed in the commuter plane crash outside Buffalo, N.Y., late Thursday.

Born in Schenectady, N.Y., in 1942, Des Forges wrote her doctoral thesis about Rwanda and began working for Human Rights Watch in the 1980s. She spent four years interviewing organizers and victims of the Rwandan genocide and testified at 11 trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as an expert witness.

According to Human Rights Watch, Des Forges “dedicated her life and work to understanding the country, to exposing the serial abuses suffered by its people and helping to bring about change.”

“There was no one who knew more and did more to document the genocide and to help bring the perpetrators to justice,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Considered the definitive account of the Rwandan tragedy, her book, “Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda,” was published in 1999 – the same year the MacArthur Foundation awarded Des Forges a “genius grant” for her work.

Des Forges’ last research work for Human Rights Watch, still unfinished, was a report about the recent killings in eastern Congo.

After spending some time in Europe, Des Forges was returning home to Buffalo, where she lived with her husband, Roger Des Forges GRD ’71, a history professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Des Forges is also survived by a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.

Continental Connection Flight 3407, from Newark, N.J., to Buffalo, crashed about six miles short of the airport in Buffalo during a light snowfall on Thursday night. Des Forges was among 44 passengers who were killed; four crew members, an off-duty pilot and one person on the ground also died.

Comments

  • yale11

    A truly sad day for us all..

    But she lived an amazing life and we - humanity - are better off for all she did. May her accomplishments and dedication inspire countless others to take up her work.

  • GenocideExpert101

    How do we square the exaggerated statement by Kenneth Roth, who is not an expert on Rwanda, that:

    "There was no one who knew more and did more to document the genocide and to help bring the perpetrators to justice.”

    With a statement by former Rwandan Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu:

    "Alison Des Forges has promoted herself as the expert of experts in all the major trials in Arusha as though she understands Rwandans better than they understand themselves. Alison Des Forges behaves as if she is Rwanda’s honorary consul. When I met her for the first time in 1992, even though she had done her thesis on Rwanda, it was obvious she knew very little about Rwanda. Supporters of the “right and proper” make much of Ms Des Forges’ vast knowledge of Rwanda and of her selfless dedication. They conveniently forget to mention that she was employed by the United States State Department in 1990 and 1992 and that she maintained close relations with the US National Security Council and the Pentagon throughout the 1990s."

    One way we can square the two statements is to continue with racism as the pro-African attitude, and say: "What does the Rwandan knows about his own country and who has knowledge about it and who doesn't. HRW knows best!"

  • Anonymous

    Bowowowww…..:(

  • sad

    It's a sad day for the world when someone like Des Forges dies.

    (And it's a sad sign for the YDN that even obituaries attract trolls.)