Hetherington was a brilliant photographer and film-maker who covered many of the world's most critical human rights stories: conflicts in Liberia, Afghanistan, Darfur, and now Libya. In every assignment, he demonstrated a remarkable sensitivity to his subjects, a tender insight into their human ordeals, and a keen sense of how visual imagery could be used to effect positive social change.
"Tim Hetherington was much more than a war reporter," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "He had an extraordinary talent for documenting, in compassionate and beautiful imagery, the human stories behind the headlines. We are saddened by his death and extend our deepest condolences to his family and countless friends."
Roth reiterated Human Rights Watch's call on the Libyan government to cease unlawful attacks against civilian areas in Misrata.
Hetherington lived in Monrovia, Liberia for eight years during the brutal civil war that engulfed Liberia and neighboring countries. The film that Hetherington co-directed, "Liberia: An Uncivil War," and his book, "Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retold," did more than any other body of work to tell the complete story of the conflict, focusing on individual Liberians and allowing them to tell their own stories in their own words.
"Restrepo," a documentary film Hetherington made with journalist Sebastian Junger about a US combat unit in Afghanistan, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Both "Liberia: An Uncivil War," and "Restrepo," were screened at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York and London.
Human Rights Watch worked with Hetherington on a number of human rights stories over the years, including assignments to Darfur, Chad, and Sri Lanka. He was a patient and generous collaborator - one of the first professional photographers Human Rights Watch assigned in the field - and his enormous credibility helped to establish Human Rights Watch as a legitimate partner in the photography world.
In addition to his remarkable professional talents, Hetherington was a warm, lively, and thoroughly delightful friend to many staff members at Human Rights Watch.
"This is a devastating loss to many of us personally," said Roth. "But it is also a devastating loss to the human rights community. His work has raised the visibility of many of the world's forgotten conflicts. The legacy of his exceptional photographs will serve to inspire those following in his footsteps."
Tim Hetherington travelled with Human Rights Watch to Chad to investigate the spillover of violence from the neighboring conflict in Darfur, Sudan. "Darfur Bleeds" documents their findings in the village of Jawara, where 118 people were killed by Sudanese Janjaweed militia and local Chadian recruits over the course of two days in April, 2006.