Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 15, 2009

Two voices of truth killed in Buffalo plane crash

Human rights expert and 9/11 widow/activist killed in Buffalo plane crash

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

(Photo left: Beverly Eckert, right Alison Des Forges)

Gabriel Barcia
Staff Reporter Yale Daily News
Published Friday, February 13, 2009
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.
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.

9/11 activist dies in plane crash:,0,6636504.story
My Silence Cannot Be Bought
by Beverly Eckert
Photo API've chosen to go to court rather than accept a payoff from the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Instead, I want to know what went so wrong with our intelligence and security systems that a band of religious fanatics was able to turn four U.S passenger jets into an enemy force, attack our cities and kill 3,000 civilians with terrifying ease. I want to know why two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed in less than two hours and why escape and rescue options were so limited.I am suing because unlike other investigative avenues, including congressional hearings and the 9/11 commission, my lawsuit requires all testimony be given under oath and fully uses powers to compel evidence.The victims fund was not created in a spirit of compassion. Rather, it was a tacit acknowledgement by Congress that it tampered with our civil justice system in an unprecedented way. Lawmakers capped the liability of the airlines at the behest of lobbyists who descended on Washington while the Sept. 11 fires still smoldered.And this liability cap protects not just the airlines, but also World Trade Center builders, safety engineers and other defendants.The caps on liability have consequences for those who want to sue to shed light on the mistakes of 9/11. It means the playing field is tilted steeply in favor of those who need to be held accountable. With the financial consequences other than insurance proceeds removed, there is no incentive for those whose negligence contributed to the death toll to acknowledge their failings or implement reforms. They can afford to deny culpability and play a waiting game.By suing, I've forfeited the "$1.8 million average award" for a death claim I could have collected under the fund. Nor do I have any illusions about winning money in my suit. What I do know is I owe it to my husband, whose death I believe could have been avoided, to see that all of those responsible are held accountable. If we don't get answers to what went wrong, there will be a next time. And instead of 3,000 dead, it will be 10,000. What will Congress do then?So I say to Congress, big business and everyone who conspired to divert attention from government and private-sector failures: My husband's life was priceless, and I will not let his death be meaningless. My silence cannot be bought.Beverly Eckert, whose husband died at the World Trade Center, is the founder of Voices of September 11th, a victims advocacy group.© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


anna said...

What a loss to the world. They were amazing women.

Arcturus said...

Following the work of Keith Harmon Snow on central Africa, the eulogies for Des Forges are rather depressing. His reporting, against the grain, much like yours, struggles to be heard. His critique of human rights work in these conflicts deserves serious & wider consideration

Robin Philpot:

"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,” complained former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu. “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."

Keith Harmon Snow, America's War in Central Africa: The Pentagon's proxy war in the Eastern Congo:

“She [Des Forges] concealed the fact that from 1990 the war caused an unprecedented economic poverty and that the one million internally displaced people tore the social fabric apart!” wrote Dr. Helmut Strizek, a former German official who has called for Alison Des Forges’ resignation from Human Rights Watch.[57] “And these people knew that Tutsi rebels [RPA] caused their misery. They did not wait for ‘instructions’ in order to revenge, once no one was able to maintain public order after the April 6 [1994] assassination [sic] and resumption of hostilities by the RPF.”[58]

At one Harvard University lecture on October 14, 1998, Alison Des Forges proposed a hypothetical ‘decapitation’ scenario whereby military intervention by a team of elite operatives could have ‘stopped the genocide’. “The scenario calls for elite troops to enter Rwanda in the first 2 to 5 days of the genocide and kill or capture the 20 or so extremist leaders who were primarily responsible for mobilizing the genocide.”[59]

However, this is regime change, and it is in keeping with the new ‘humanitarian’ warfare paradigm, and it licenses special operations forces to commit human rights atrocities and acts of terror legitimized by one state (US) over its ‘enemies’."

Keith Harmon Snow, writing in 2003, Depopulation As Policy - Or, How the despair and death of millions of African people is daily determined by the lifestyle of ordinary Americans, in small town USA, with nary a word of truth in the US press, if anything at all, and why most of us know nothing about it, and do nothing to stop it when we do know.:

"Philip Gourevitch is not alone in obfuscating genocide. Alison des Forges compiled the mammoth text Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda for Human Rights Watch. Some insist that Des Forges works with the U.S. intelligence apparatus (CIA, DIA, NSA), but I can say only that Human Rights Watch has become increasingly compromised,[v] that Des Forges exonerated the RPF, that she cleared the U.S. of war crimes. Like Gourevitch, Des Forges reported from the ranks of the RPF, where access to battlefields, massacres and information was tightly managed and, in keeping with the Jessica Lynch charade in Iraq, selectively manufactured. (Des Forges’ recent reports criticizing the Kagame government are not evidence of objectivity.) Amnesty International also bought the sanitized U.S. version."

see also Snow's HOTEL RWANDA: Hollywood and the Holocaust in Central Africa