Rwanda genocide investigator among crash victims

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 14, 2009 at 8:10 AM EDT

A leading investigator of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was among the victims of Thursday's plane crash outside of Buffalo, New York, that left 50 people dead, a human rights group announced.

Doctor Alison Des Forges was a passenger of the Continental Airlines plane, Human Rights Watch said.

Des Forges, senior adviser to the group's Africa division for almost two decades, dedicated her life to working on Rwanda and was the world's leading expert on the 1994 Rwanda genocide and its aftermath.

Continental Flight 3407, on a flight from Newark in New Jersey to Buffalo, plummeted onto the house in Clarence Center late Thursday.

The Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop plane exploded on impact about five minutes before it was due to land, killing all 49 passengers and crew.

One person in the crushed house also died.

"She was truly wonderful, the epitome of the human rights activist - principled, dispassionate, committed to the truth and to using that truth to protect ordinary people," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said of Des Forges.

"She was among the first to highlight the ethnic tensions that led to the genocide, and when it happened and the world stood by and watched, Alison did everything humanly possible to save people."

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda based in Arusha, Tanzania, on Saturday voiced its sadness at her death.

"It is with deep shock that the tribunal has learned of the tragic disappearance of Alison des Forges. It is a great loss for the world of human rights, international justice and all humanity, " a spokesman for the UN tribunal, Roland Amoussouga, told AFP.

Des Forges appeared as an expert witness in 11 trials for genocide at the ICTR, three trials in Belgium, and at trials in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Canada.

Her book "No Witness Must Survive" is regarded as the reference work on the Rwandan genocide.




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