February 13, 2009 / 11:16 PM / in 9 years

Key human rights advocate dies in U.S. plane crash

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A prominent human rights advocate who documented genocide in Rwanda was among the victims of Thursday’s commuter plane crash near Buffalo, associates said on Friday.

Historian Alison Des Forges was one of the 50 people killed when the plane crashed into a house and burst into flames.

Des Forges, 66, dedicated her life to studying Rwanda and wrote a definitive study of the 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 people from the country’s ethnic Tutsi minority as well as Hutu moderates were slaughtered in 100 days.

Des Forges appeared as an expert witness in 11 trials for genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as well as in trials in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Canada, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Des Forges worked as a senior advisor to the organization’s Africa division and was also an authority on human rights violations in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Her death is a tremendous loss for the human rights community, for Rwanda and the Great Lakes, which are places that she loved so dearly,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa regional director for Human Rights Watch.

A central thesis of her award-winning book, “Leave None to Tell the Story,” was that the genocide was not an uncontrollable explosion of ancient tribal hatreds but a carefully orchestrated by the government which seized control of Rwanda in April, 1994.

Des Forges also argued that the rebel army that defeated the genocide regime and is now in power should also be held accountable for crimes during and just after the genocide.

Editing by Jim Loney and Alan Elsner

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