Remembering Jemera Rone

Remembering Jemera Rone

Jemera Rone, a pioneering human rights researcher, passed away July 29 in Washington DC . Human Rights Watch mourns the loss of our former colleague and has opened up this space for people to share thoughts and memories. You can submit your tribute her here.

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Remembering Jemera Rone

Every time I travel in South Sudan, I think of my former colleague and friend Jemera Rone, who died in Washington, DC yesterday. Jemera worked for Human Rights Watch for more than 20 years and was a true human rights pioneer, as well as a generous mentor and colleague.

Jemera Rone: Working the phone in Darfur, Sudan, 2004.

© Olivier Bercault

She opened and staffed Human Rights Watch's first field office in the early 1980s, starting the practice of placing our researchers in the midst of war zones that is now routine. 

Jemera was among the first human rights investigators to document violations of international humanitarian law or “the laws of war,”  laying the foundation for today’s research and reporting on conflict zones from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Syria.

Jemera Rone in Darfur, Sudan, 2004.

© Olivier Bercault

But back in El Salvador in the 1980s, when she started reporting on laws-of-war violations, hardly anyone in the human rights movement was doing it. It meant reporting not only on government abuses, but those of rebel groups as well.  Many were hostile to the idea, arguing that rights groups should focus on only government rights violations. Judgments about war crimes, they said, were too difficult to make.

Jemera showed this research could be done carefully and accurately--her research survived the intense scrutiny of the Reagan administration, which was backing the abusive Salvadoran government--and her reporting on rebel abuses as well highlighted Human Rights Watch's impartiality. 

Jemera Rone: Working in Darfur, Sudan,

Her detailed reporting also helped establish the organization's methodology, showing that carefully documented facts could cut through partisanship and ideology to put pressure on abusers – and those backing them – to stop. 

However, it is her 15 years of research on Sudan that may be her greatest legacy. Jemera is a household name to so many Sudanese and South Sudanese leaders, journalists, aid workers, and ordinary people -- anyone who followed Sudan’s long 1983-2005 north-south civil war, really.

Jemera Ron  in Darfur, Sudan, 2004. 

© Olivier Bercault

She literally “wrote the book” on the horrendous human rights abuses by all sides in the conflict, investigating and documenting in extraordinary detail the atrocities committed by the government in Khartoum as well as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and other rebel groups.

“Civilian Devastation,” her 1994 report for Human Rights Watch on Sudan’s conflict, is the most detailed description available of how civilians then – as today – were slaughtered because of their ethnicity and suffered massive destruction and pillage of their villages and towns. 

Her research on the 1998 famine in Bahr-el-Ghazal, which uncompromisingly laid the blame for the needless deaths from hunger on systematic human rights abuses, was unprecedented and helped change the way we think about responsibility for famine.

Her 567-page tome on the impact of the oil industry in South Sudan’s Greater Upper Nile region, “Sudan, Oil and Human Rights,” remains the uncontested history of exploration and extraction of oil and the massive forced displacement of local populations and other horrific human rights abuses that took place. It’s also a devastating description of personal schisms between abusive leaders and the use of ethnicity to pit people against each other with terrifying results, foreshadowing the current violence in South Sudan.

“Members of [these] communities continue to be killed or maimed, their homes and crops burned, and their grains and cattle looted,” she wrote then. The same kinds of abuses have again been committed against civilians this year in Unity state, in the same places she researched with such rigor.

Jemera was passionate, committed and prescient. Back in 1994, in a telling warning of the devastation we see in South Sudan today, now led by the same men who were then its rebels, she wrote:

“The leaders of the SPLA factions must address their own human rights problems and correct their own abuses, or risk a continuation of the war on tribal or political grounds in the future, even if they win autonomy or separation.”

She fought for accountability and justice. These calls were ignored in 2005, when the region, the US, the UK and Norway mediated the peace deal that was to lead to South Sudan’s secession and included a de facto amnesty that permitted impunity for the terrible crimes. As mediators press South Sudan’s leaders for peace today, they should bear in mind Jemera’s wise counsel. 

Even as they tried to deny her findings, commanders and politicians respected her commitment, intellect and courage. “That crazy redhead”—so described by one Ugandan leader who found himself on the sharp end of her allegations—will be deeply missed. 

New York Times Obituary for Jemera Rone

Jemera Rone, Investigator Who Bared Human Rights Abuses, Dies at 71. Read the New York Times obituary here.

One Morning in Kampala

In 2001 I went on my first assignment for Human Rights Watch. At the training session a tall blond woman in scarlet heels, scarlet fingernails and a bright red dress drilled me in the basics of international human rights law. She made a strong impression: she was Jemera Rone. Five years later, in 2006, I worked with her again, on Uganda. For a week as the controversial elections threatened to turn violent, I criss-crossed the country briefing Jemera on the phone two or three times a day. She wanted to know everything. What was happening, who was doing what to whom, why, where, when? But she didn’t only care about the work. She cared about me too: What was I eating? Was I sleeping enough? Had I stopped on the road to Gulu and visited the famous waterfall? The phone would ring at all hours, and I was only one of many researchers that she was supervising in the field.


Once, early in the morning in Kampala, after midnight in the US, we were discussing for the hundredth time some new twist in the national scene and where I was considering visiting that day. When I had gone to bed, she had just been going home from work, and she had been working with her colleagues in different time zones ever since. At some point, the voice on the end of the phone went quiet.

                “Jemera,” I said, politely, for she was still my boss.

                “Jemera?” I tried again, louder. Then I heard a snuffle and a grunt.

                “I’m sorry,” she said. “I must have dropped off there. It’s kinda late here, you know.”

                “Yes." I said. "Jemera, can I make a suggestion?”


                “I’ll be fine today. Don’t worry. Why don’t you get some sleep?”

                “Yes,” she said, “That’s probably a good idea.”

 Ben Rawlence (former HRW Africa researcher and author of Radio Congo)

Washington Post Obituary for Jemera Rone

"Jemera Rone, dogged human rights researcher in conflict zones, dies at 71" Read the full obituary here. 

Travels with Jemera


It’s admittedly a bit late now: I should have found an occasion to confess to Jemera that, when I had the chance, I did not quite live up to her standard. In my defense I can say that almost no one did – hers was the gold standard – but that’s not really much of a defense at all, especially considering the flagrant way in which I ignored the outstanding example she set.

It was 1992, summer, hot; the place: Iraqi Kurdistan. Jemera had called me out of the blue (I didn’t know her) in the spring to ask if I would be interested in investigating the disappearance, and apparent murder, of tens of thousands of Kurds. I jumped, of course (except that I had to finish an assignment in Washington, so she preceded me in the field by three months; she hired me to replace her).

She collected me from the Turkish border, and from the moment I started working with her I realized I was in a different league. I’d thought I was a good field researcher; it soon became clear I’d found my master. I’d thought I excelled at helping build local capacity (as the saying goes); she simply outshone me, hands down.

Jemera went around with a – sigh – exhaustive questionnaire of many pages, and managed to cover all the important questions, and even some “unimportant” ones, during the course of each interview, which lasted, oh, between two and three hours. She was trying to establish whether genocide had been committed by asking the survivors what crops they grew in their fields and how many houses there were in their village?! (Yes, she did get to the killing part, eventually.)

I tagged along as Jemera crisscrossed Kurdistan in search of eyewitnesses. She’d hire a local taxi to take us from one town (and ratty hotel) to the next. On the roof she’d strap ten large file boxes – perhaps there were fewer, but to me it seemed like ten, or more – filled with Human Rights Watch reports, brochures, pamphlets, annual reports, flyers, and whatnots, in English, in Arabic, perhaps even in Kurdish (locally translated and printed). We were a floating library, and at each stop she’d track down the local human rights organization – extremely nascent; the regime had left barely eight months previous – and inundate them with the stuff, also providing lectures, hands-on training, advice, and much encouragement. Those folks were ecstatic, fired up. And I was impressed.

When she left after a week, I inherited both the questionnaire and the boxes. The former I used, religiously, despite myself; it proved invaluable. As for the latter…to my undying shame I must admit that I soon dumped those files. All of them. (Ok, I dumped them at one of the local human rights organizations, “as part of my attempt at capacity building.”) I never had the heart to tell her, and the interpreter she bequeathed to me never did rat on me, despite his evident fondness for her. (People who worked for her proved intensely loyal.)

The reason I got rid of the stuff was simple: Saddam was paying reward money for whoever proved ready to take a potshot at a foreigner, and in this way a couple of aid workers had been killed in the previous weeks as they were driving in their clearly marked vehicles along one of the main roads. I wasn’t gonna be no sitting duck. And the reason for that was also simple: I was a wimp. And Jemera was not. She was fearless. And driven. And – apart from her temper – altogether perfect. There wasn’t, and never will be, anyone quite like her. She truly was incomparable. The human rights community has lost a great one.

Joost Hiltermann, Brussels, 3 August 2015

Remembering Jemera


Jemera was indomitable. She was also funny, and wise, and a smart lawyer, and compassionate, and prickly. But indomitable is how I will remember her, unwilling to be deterred or cowed, eye on what's right, stubborn and willing to stand by her views, regardless of who joined them. This made her a rare and precious woman, and I miss her.

Dinah PoKempner


It is intimidating and awe-inspiring to read the tributes to Jemera. I knew her in high school at Radford School for Girls in El Paso, Texas. Even then, her classmates knew she was destined to leave a lasting mark on history. Many of us saw her at a class reunion several years ago after her accident and were concerned about her health--she just kept right on visiting. On behalf of all us us who knew her when she was just a bright girl in our class of 1962, Shine On, Jemera.

Elizabeth Moore


When we were starting the California Committee more than 25 years ago, Jemera came to LA and spoke to groups of potential HRW supporters about her experiences in war zones of the Global South.  She was a true warrior, eloquent advocate, and a major reason I committed many years to HRW.

 Jane Olson, Chair of HRW Board 2004-2010


I remember Jemera with great affection from my time at HRW.  I was the principal editor of her magnum opus, Sudan: Oil and Human Rights, and she submitted with good humour as we wrestled it into shape together.  Thanks to her I have an enduring familiarty with the alphabet soup of South Sudanese politics and the place names in the oil fields, as well an permanent arresting image of the Wunlit peace conference of 1999 as she described it:

"The conference opened out of doors in multifaith style, with Dinka and Nuer spiritual leaders, masters of the fishing spear (Dinka) and earth masters (Nuer), forming a big circle around a tethered white ox, Mabior (Dinka and Nuer for 'white ox'), chanting their desire for him to take away all the bad blood between Nuer and Dinka. Then the ox, which fiercely resisted, was slaughtered in the traditional (Dinka) manner, horns wrestled to the ground by young men, and throat cut with a knife. Throughout the conference, Mabior and his sacrifice were referred to by the participants. Inside the specially-built long hall of mud and thatch deemed necessary for the important meeting, a Christian pastor gave a long benediction".

It is sad that the need for an end to such bad blood still remains in South Sudan; but Jemera is among those who have ensured that the history of the new country has been recorded, and it is an important contribution to have made.

Bronwen Manby


I'm really sad to hear of Jemera's death. The volume of vivid memories, that I have of her, belie the brevity of the time we worked together.  Her warm, terrifying, generous strength continues to inspire me. I sadly cannot attend the memorial but will be thinking of her and everyone who loved her.

Rachael Garvin


I knew Jemera when I worked in the Human Rights Watch office in NY. She was awe-inspiring, approachable, and kind, a rare combination. Simply put, she was a wonderful person to have known, if only from a distance.

James Ron


Human rights violations were all too common in my experience, especially when I lived in Chile during the Pinochet years, and in Central America in the 80's. It was in this context that I first met Jemera in El Salvador. Her dedication, intellectual brilliance, scientific objectivity and courage have been well attested to and documented by so many professionals in the human rights field. One can only second with enthusiasm all that has been so well expressed.  

What I can add, perhaps, is that Jemera was also her "brother’s keeper" (Genesis 4:9), not only at the macro and systemic level where she is so well recognized, but also at the immediate level of those in need. She was capable of responding to and even reaching out to those with personal difficulties and afflictions, including those who did not share our social justice, human rights and political values.

This she did with discretion and loyalty to a higher cause, and without letting it interfere in any way with her principal human rights vocation and tasks. This and so much more accompany Jemera in her new life as well as in our hearts and memories. Hopefully her life and testimony among the most needy will inspire younger and future generations to continue her vocation.

(Fr.) David Farrell, csc

Notre Dame, IN



I came to know Jemera through her work on Darfur conflict and as a board member of the Sudan Studies Association. For me, she was not only doing her job, honestly; but she was living every bit of it.  I felt humbled with her enthusiasm with the victims and the calamities that encircled them. Even with the car accident, her energy and concerns with the situation in Sudan didn’t wither. On behalf of all those who were touched by her presence in Darfur and the Darfurians in the diaspora, I say “أنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون”, which I will translate to mean: “We’re all from Earth, and to the Earth we return”.

Ali Dinar, University of Pennsylvania, USA


To me and multitudes of South Sudanese that your prolific writings and determined campaigning advocated for, you are an illustrative example of unity of humanity - and in death, you are larger than life itself. May your soul rest in eternal peace, my friend!

Majak D'Agoot, former Deputy Minister


I was saddened to hear the news of Jemera's death. Jemera trained me as a young researcher at HRW over 15 years ago. Her commitment to impartial fact-finding and compassion for the victims of human rights abuse left a strong impression on me. RIP.

Ben Ward


I was asked by the USAID Mission to El Salvador to escort Ms. Rone on visits to the Displaced Salvadorans Settlements around the country in the early 80's   At that time I worked under contract to USAID/El Salvador and was responsible for the financial, medical, and food aid being furnished by the U.S. government to displaced Salvadoran families.    Although I was unable to speak for the U.S. government I was able to help Ms. Rona with the logistics of her visits and accompany her on many of those visits.  I greatly admired her dedication to investigating that U.S. assistance was non-political and was reaching the intended beneficiaries.  Her reports were always well documented and were the results  traveling to areas greatly affected by the conflict.   It was an honor to have known her and observe her dedication.  I would like to extend my condolences to her colleagues and family.

David C. Thompson

Arlington, VA


Many others have paid eloquent tribute to the life and work of Jemera Rone. I want only to add a few words of deep appreciation for this woman of compassion, grit, and intelligence. My path intersected hers in El Salvador, where I was working for an international church-related NGO during the civil war. Jemera was present.  She listened, observed, probed, and, like a reliable witness, told the truth. I never forgot her.  She was an extraordinary person, a shining light, a gem.

Mary Solberg, Professor of Religion, Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN, USA


I first learned about the pre-eminent Sudan expert Jemera Rone in 1999. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs appointed a fact-finding mission to Sudan to investigate whether a Canadian oil company, Talisman Energy was complicit in attacks on civilians, forced displacement and other human rights violations in Western Upper Nile (now Unity State) through its partnership with the Sudanese government in oil development in the region.  I was named the mission’s field research lead and, lacking expertise on Sudan, sought out Jemera at Human Rights Watch hoping to tap her knowledge.

I quickly understood that Jemera was the definitive source of authoritative information and insightful analysis on the incredibly complex situation in Sudan and the surrounding region. She was, without hesitation, generous and giving of her expertise and the invaluable contacts she had spent years cultivating.  I still have the mainly hand-written copy of the voluminous and remarkable list of Sudan sources Jemera shared with me.  

That engagement helped our mission produce a landmark report, changing perspectives and policy in Canada, and it was also the start of a productive professional relationship and friendship between Jemera and I. She encouraged me to join Human Rights Watch where we worked together from 2004-06. It was Jemera who drew me into the approach to human rights work that combines painstaking field investigation, rigourous documentation, considered analysis and strategic, relentless advocacy.

From Jemera, I learned first-hand how to conduct an in-depth human rights investigation in the field, how to scrutinize actors on all sides with equal rigour and impartiality, subject findings to analysis informed by thorough interpretation of all applicable laws and standards, develop actionable recommendations to key parties, and deliver advocacy that evokes results and leads to change. I also have countless memories, from scary to hilarious, of working with Jemera on Sudan, Darfur and Uganda- particularly road trips in South Sudan and Darfur where there was never a dull moment.

As many colleagues and observers have highlighted, Jemera’s pioneering spirit and innovative approaches and techniques, dating back to her work in Central America in the early 1980s and carrying through her years focused on Sudan, broke new ground for human rights advocates, set a high standard, and have had a lingering impact globally. The training, skills, approach and commitment Jemera shared with me, I in turn passed on, in particular over the past five years to the large team of national and international human rights field officers I led as director of the United Nations’ human rights mission in Afghanistan. Today, as these Afghan women and men take human rights to heart and go out into their country, undertaking with courage and conviction to make it better through a human rights-driven framework, they carry a little bit of Jemera Rone with them.

I pay tribute to Jemera’s fearlessness, determination and fierce spirit. She will always be an inspiration to me, and to all human rights advocates who carry her work forward.

Georgette Gagnon

August 5, 2015

Toronto, Canada


I always felt as if I had known Jemera for ever and, like many people who have worked on the Sudans for decades, I cannot remember when or where I met her. She was indissolubly linked to Sudan and South Sudan and for me, always will be. She gave her very big heart and her very fine mind to trying to improve the human rights of the people of what are now two countries. Though the people of both countries still suffer terrible atrocities at the hands of those with the power to oppress, she was a leading force in ensuring that the ideal of human rights is now common currency in the world. Her diligent documenting of abuses, especially during the National Islamic Front's scorched earth clearance of the Upper Nile oilfields in the 1990s, remain the gold standard of human rights reporting and a mine of information for future research and perhaps future trials.

Jemera was also a friend and we always meant to go exploring London, a city that fascinated her, together but after her terrible road accident in 2006, that became a dream deferred. In 2001, we did go together to the American International Church in Tottenham Court Road to sign the condolence book after the devastating 9-11 attacks, a duty she insisted on fulfilling. People mattered to her.

I didn't see her after the accident in which she nearly died and which stopped her from working again. In Christmas cards and emails, though, she showed the same humour and determination that she had demonstrated in her commitment to Sudan. Even after she was undergoing the awful rigours of cancer treatment, she still sounded cheerful and in many ways her old self. She made the world a better place and I am only one of many, many people who will not forget her or her contribution.

'Remember me, but ah! forget my fate'.

From Gill Lusk.


On behalf of the People of South Sudan, the SPLM and on my own behalf I hereby write with deep sorrow and a sense of a great loss for the passing of Ms. Jemera Rone. Ms. Rone was indeed a great researcher on Sudan/South Sudan human rights issues and she had numerously travelled in the past to extreme remote areas and villages in the midst of war and hunger conditions in the search of truth and facts.

I have personally kept in touch with Jemera over the years since she happened to have interviewed me severally, and what a great humble person with an enormous in depth knowledge Ms. Rone was. We kept in touch even after her car accident a while back and it was our sincere hope that she would come and witness our Independence on 11th July 2011, but she couldn't make it due to her accident then.

We take this opportunity to wholeheartedly thank Ms. Jemera Rone for her unmatchable dedication and commitment to human rights issues of South Sudan/Sudan.

So long gone Jemera Rone, you shall be greatly missed by your South Sudanese brothers and sisters.

May her family be consoled and may Jemera's soul RIP.

From Suzanne Jambo

National Secretary for External Relations the Sudan People's Liberation Movement


Very sorry to hear about Jemera. A wonderful, diligent and perceptive researcher, who gave so much to the people of Sudan. We will miss her.

Martin Plaut, journalist and former Africa Editor, BBC World Service News.


Jemera Rone wasn't only a career champion, but an icon who devoted time fighting for others to have space in modern society. Rone could tell a story as it was with zeal and enthusiasm, but with no regrets of what it may cause her personally.

Atok D Baguoot, South Sudan:


Jemera Rone was an early supporter of the Rift Valley Institute, and one of the Institute’s first Fellows. She taught on the first RVI Sudan field course in 2004 and on two subsequent RVI courses held in Rumbek, in South Sudan. We shall miss Jemera’s spirited conversation, the meticulousness of her research, and her deep commitment to the Sudans.

John Ryle, Rift Valley Institute:


I am saddened to hear about the death of Jemera. Although I never met her personally, I came across her work in the past. Belatedly, as a Person of South Sudan origin, I just want to say "Thank you Jemera for your service to humanity. There is nothing richer in this life than working for the good of humanity." May Jemera's soul rest in peace.

El Hag Paul, from South Sudan:


Jemera Rone was an extraordinarily dedicated and talented human rights researcher, her career sadly shortened by a bad car accident. The compilation of the gruesome and disturbing record of what human beings are capable of inflicting on each other requires compassion, understanding, rigour, accuracy and hard work, qualities not always found together. It also requires researchers to spend long periods in often arduous conditions in dangerous places where the authorities are likely to be threatened by their activities. It is a calling. Sudan and South Sudan are today producing human rights advocates and researchers of their own, but Jemera's work set a standard it would be hard to surpass.

Philip Winter, South Sudan analyst


Jemera Rone was a human rights icon. She loved both Sudans. She was also loved by the Sudanese people for her honesty, passion, integrity and professionalism. She knew the Sudans and Sudanese people very well. I remember how  Sudanese greeted with love, respect  and honor when she  participated  at the annual conference of the Sudanese Studies Association in San Fransisco, in May last year. 

She was a great loss to us all. My sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues in Human Rights Watch. May God bless her and rest her soul. 

Ahmed. H. Adam, Visiting Fellow, Cornell University:


She dedicated herself to humanitarian work and exposed human rights violations in many countries in the world. In more than a decade and a half, she documented human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed during the South/North Sudan wars. She exposed and revealed all the violations that were committed by the conflicting parties in an impartial manner; this raised her credibility and respectability.

She warned international mediators of the consequences of condoning the culture of impunity for crimes against humanity committed by the government of Sudan and the SPLM during the war and the gravity of dropping criminal prosecutions against the perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the comprehensive peace agreement negotiations in 2005. She has been a forefront leader in exposing abuses in Darfur and drew the attention of the international community to this humanitarian disaster.

The human rights activist and researcher, Jemera Rone, passed on after a long suffering. She was affected in the course of a Washington accident in 2006 while she was on her way to participate in an activity to support victims of human rights violations. She continued to suffer and was in a state of coma for a long period as a result of the serious injuries she sustained.

The Darfur Bar Association, the Darfur civil societies and the displaced persons owe gratitude to the rights activist Jemera Rone for her service for those affected by the human rights violations in Darfur. Her death will not end her biography; her history of unlimited service will keep on inspiring generations.

The Darfur Bar Association


For those of us at OHCHR who happened to know and  interacted with Jemera, her contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights be it in Sudan , South Sudan  or some other place will remain powerful memories. Energy, commitment, integrity are among the few qualities that capture her image. Suffice it to say that she will be sorely missed.  

Joseph Bonsu, Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sudan and South Sudan desk


Jemera Rone will always be remembered by me for her kindness as well as her diligence and perseverance in matters of human rights.  I met her on several occasions at Sudan Studies Association meetings, and was fortunate for the time she gave to speak with me and share her experiences in Sudan and South Sudan.  Jemera - you will live in the memory and work of all of us!

Stephanie Riak AkueI


How sad to learn of Jemera's passing. I worked with her when I was at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops 10+ years ago.  She was terrific to work with: incredibly well-informed, committed, and a wonderful human being.

Gerard F. Powers, University of Notre Dame:


Jemera Rone was an inspiring example of the difference one lawyer can make. When I arrived in Sudan, I remember my UN colleagues urging that I read her 2003 report on the human impact of oil, which I did with great care and admiration. The extraordinary quality and impact of her reporting helped me aspire to and push for more regular, and better standards of public human rights reporting by the United Nations. Her work made a real impact, and will be long remembered. 

Naresh Perinpanayagam (UN Mission in Sudan, 2008-2010):


The impact of Jemera's work will continue to live on for many years. In addition to the years of research, reporting and advocacy that Jemera dedicated to Sudan, she also helped to inform and inspire the next generation of Sudan researchers and analysts - Sudanese, South Sudanese and international alike. She is sorely missed, and fondly remembered. 

Dave Mozersky, Sudan, South Sudan Analyst:


Comment I am honored to have known Jemera in her earlier years in New York, when she was a member of the women's law firm; her bright spirit and talent in the law remain in my memory.

Eliot Stanley, Portland, Maine.


I met Jemera Rone when I was working for New Sudan Council of Churches. We worked closely with her on issues of grassroots peace between the Dinka of Bhar El Ghazal and the Nuer of Western Upper Nile, now known to be Unity State of the Republic of South Sudan. She positively contributed to the Dinka – Nuer peace conference in Wunlit, which she attended. I also worked with her closely in other places, such as Lilliir in Upper Nile and other conferences thereafter.

Jemera Rone is known to many in South Sudan, Sudan and East Africa at large as Human Rights Activist, particularly as a great and fearless fighter to that cause. Ms. Rone dedicated her life by stepping into Sudan in the 1990s with one clear mission – to make an intensive research and report on the atrocities committed by the arbitrary Government of Khartoum. In this cause, Ms. Rone so much absorbed herself into the conflict in the Sudan, between the Khartoum Government and then Southern Sudan rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). She travelled all parts of the country, including the rebel-controlled areas. In her book, ‘Behind the Red Line: Political Repression in Sudan’, Ms. Rone brought forward various degrading humanity, particularly paying greater attention to the National Security of the Khartoum regime, characterized by prolonged arbitrary arrests and detentions; even questioning the arrest of Sadiq Al Mahdi and Umma Party members; torture and deaths in prisons; cases of impunity depicted by the regime, which led to an eventual North – South disagreements and divide that culminated into civil war in 1983. Not only did she confront the Khartoum regime, but also maintained her stance on human rights and war-laws violations committed by the Rebel Commanders of the time.

In her report ‘Famine in Sudan, 1998: The Human Rights Causes’, being haunted by the outbreak of famine to the vulnerable and poor civilians, she came back to Sudan; travelling mostly all famine-affected parts of then Southern Sudan. She detailed the integral role of international community and respective governments in relation to war-related human rights abuses, in which there would have been no famine in Sudan, no abject poverty, if the concerned authorities were well prepared. 

I regret that it is not in my power to join the families, relatives and friends on the occasion of the death of my friend and advocate in the struggle of this nascent nation – South Sudan, but my heart responds to any testimonial appreciative of the humanitarian and intellectual achievements and the noble life of Jemera Rone. She stands out to be the most industrious of all those who participated in the struggle of today hard-earned Republic of South Sudan, slowly, patiently, under many disadvantages and hardships that come along with a war-torn nation, which she built up her splendid reputation in the name of advocacy for human rights protection. Her picturesque reports, articles and books, which entirely focus on the human rights abuses committed not only in South Sudan, but also in East Africa and parts of the world. Her high arguments and unwavering confrontations with government officials and military officers are sureties of the permanence of her reputation and love for humanity, cemented as the price of this nation.

My active roles in varying capacities and levels in this country’s profile have afforded me few opportunities of personal intercourse with Jemera Rone. With her it is well. Her mission is fulfilled. She was herself a maker of history, and part and parcel of all that mattered and still matters for the Republic of South Sudan and larger East Africa. Some of the thematic issues and concerns from her books were extensively copied and greatly admired. It was this period that most, both her admirers and opponents got inspired by mere self-sacrifice of such an extraordinary human being.

With rising oil industry in the southern part of then Sudan, Ms. Rone differed with the authorities (Khartoum), brining forward some of the human rights abuses that come with this wealth. She once put it in one of her books ‘Sudan, Oil and Human Rights’ that, “Oil development in Southern Sudan should have been a cause of rejoicing for Sudan’s people, instead, it has brought them nothing but woe.”

Under the shadow of this bereavement, I am saddened that I, and other friends in South Sudan, shall see her face no more, and cognisant of the hope that, that concerning sound of her voice still echoes to many, as each one of every South Sudanese come to learn through her undying struggle for good of mankind, rule of law and good governance in the country.

Telar Deng,

Ambassador, of the Republic of South Sudan to the Russian Federation.


I was sorry to see that Jemera Rone had passed away.

Aside from her well-known work in Sudan and South Sudan and El Salvador, we remember her for her multiple research trips to Chechnya. She crossed over from Latin America, where she had considerable expertise in documenting violations on both sides of the conflict to Russia's North Caucasus, and area she wasn't familiar with but where her experience in armed conflict was very much applicable. We very much appreciated her insights and dedication in pursuing reporting on this dangerous and complicated war that few wanted to cover. 

Here's one of her reports from 1997:

She was also involved in "Welcome to Hell"

On a personal note, I was grateful to Jemera from taking out time from her busy travelling and work schedule to give blood for the treatment of my critically ill infant who died in 1991. That's the kind of devoted friend and colleague she was.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, writer and translator


Thank you so much, Ms Rone!!  I shall miss you.

Joyce Burnett


Comment One of the few human beings who could make us proud of being one. May she find the peace that is so scarce on earth!



 I met Jemera in Central America in the late 1980's. She spoke to a group of us who went to Central America to learn, for ourselves, what was really happening. The trip was a eye opening experience. I am sure that the work she did documenting human rights abuses is what allowed me and many others in my community to know about and take our small actions on human rights issues over the years. Thank you Jemera.


Kerri Griffis


Jemera is an example to all of us, an unquestionable hero for every human rights lawyer and activist! Rest in Power Jemera!

Lukasz W. Niparko


rest in peace lady Jemera Rone

eusebio manuel vestias pecurto


That's my kind of lawyers, that's my kind of law - flying high, with top brains, the workload capacity of a Clydesdale Horse, and their heart in the absolute right place.

In French we'd say, 'La Très Grande Classe'.

Emmanuelle Guibé


Thank you, Jemera Rone for your compassion, commitment and courage in fighting for Human Rights.

You were truly an angel while serving your life on this earth.

Anna Tangi