Arusha, 14 February, 2009 (FH)-A renowned humans rights activist and historian, Dr Alison Des Forges, is among 48 passengers who were killed in the plane crash from Newark to Buffalo, the United States, on 12 February, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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She was a Senior Adviser to the African division at Human Rights Watch since the early 1990s. She appeared as an expert witness in 11 trials for genocide at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); three trials in Belgium and at trials in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Canada. She was known for her award-winning book of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, "Leave None to Tell the Story".

Dr Forges, 67, made herself unpopular in Rwanda by insisting that the rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), currently in power, which defeated the genocidal regime, should also be held accountable for their alleged crimes, including the murder of 30,000 people during and just after the April-July, 1994 genocide.

The Rwandan government late last year banned her from the country after Human Rights Watch published an extensive analysis of judicial reform there, drawing attention to problems of inappropriate prosecution and external influence on the judiciary that resulted in trials and verdicts that in several cases failed to conform to facts of cases, according to Human Rights statement from New York.

"Alison's loss is a devastating blow not only to Human Rights Watch but also to the people of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region'', said Kenneth Roll, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

"Alison was the rock within the Africa team, a fountain of knowledge, but also a tremendous source of guidance and support to all of us," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch.

"She was one of the topmost authorities on the history and politics of Rwanda. As a world renowned expert in this field, her knowledge, professionalism and commitment to justice assisted the ICTR and indeed the world at large tremendously -through her writings, her expert reports and her oral testimony spanning several trials before the tribunal acquire a better understanding of the genesis and course of the tragedy of the Rwanda genocide of 1994'', stated Justice Hassan Jallow, Prosecutor of ICTR, in a statement to the Hirondelle Agency Saturday.

He added:" Dr Des Forges has made an indelible contribution to the cause of international criminal justice and to the cause of human rights. Her death is a loss to those causes and to all who have had the opportunity to interact with her."

Most recently, Des Forges was working on Human Rights Watch report about killings in Eastern Congo.

Dr  Forges, who was a graduate from Redcliffe College in 1964 and received her doctorate from Yale in 1972, leaves behind a husband, a daughter, a son, three grandchildren, a brother and a sister-in-law.


© Hirondelle News Agency