The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Alison Des Forges Dead in Buffalo Plane Crash

February 13, 2009

A light went out in the human rights movement last night with the crash of Flight 3407 near Buffalo, NY. I barely knew Alison Des Forges, but I share the collective grief of many of my colleagues in the human rights scholarly community and the International Association of Genocide Scholars, and friends at Human Rights Watch and in the wider movement.

Alison was known for her pathbreaking work chronicling the Rwandan genocide, and was a tireless advocate for human rights around the globe through her work at Human Rights Watch. Her interview by Frontline on the 10th anniversary of the genocide is worth revisiting.

I am sitting at Union Station as I write this preparing to take the train to the International Studies Association Meeting in New York, so I have no time to do justice to this news. Instead, I respectfully refer you to a few heartfelt obituaries that have popped up in the last few hours since word went out, by people who knew her better than I did: here and here.

Meanwhile, I shall be holding her family, and the families of all those who perished with her, in the light.

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.