MacArthur Fellows Program

Alison L. Des Forges

Human Rights Leader | Class of 1999

Human Rights Leader
Washington, District of Columbia
57 at time of award
February 12, 2009
Published July 1, 1999

About Alison's Work

Alison L. Des Forges is a writer, researcher, and human rights advocate who documents and brings to light the causes of one of the most egregious abuses of human rights – genocide.

Through informed analyses, Des Forges has focused attention on Rwanda and Burundi in particular, and central Africa in general, before, during, and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and has been instrumental in assisting the International Criminal Tribunal in its prosecution of those responsible. She visited the sites of massacres, exhumed bodies from mass graves, collected human bones strewn in the game parks of Rwanda, and interviewed victims of atrocities. Her book, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda (1999), marks the culmination of years of intense work and research. In this book, she analyzes the mechanisms of genocide, the conditions under which it can take place, and the patterns of participation of ever-larger numbers of the population.


Since 1988, Des Forges has been affiliated with Human Rights Watch, where she is the senior advisor to the Africa Division. She taught previously at the State University of New York, Oswego (1984-85) and at the State University of New York, Buffalo (1990-92).

Des Forges received an A.B. (1964) from Radcliffe College and an M.A. (1966) and Ph.D. (1972) from Yale University.  

Last updated January 1, 2005

Select News Coverage of Alison L. Des Forges
February 13, 2009
"Alison Des Forges, 66, Human Rights Advocate, Dies"
The New York Times
Alison L. Des Forges , 1999 MacArthur Fellow
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