Cynthia Brown, 60, activist for Human Rights Watch

Ms. Brown also helped form a division dedicated to advocating women’s rights.
Human Rights Watch
Ms. Brown also helped form a division dedicated to advocating women’s rights.

NEW YORK — Activist Cynthia Brown, one of the guiding forces at the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch, has died at age 60 after fighting cancer.

Ms. Brown started with Human Rights Watch as a researcher in 1982, focusing on the Americas.

In 1990, she went to Chile for two years for the organization.


In 1993, she became its first program director, overseeing every report it published.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Human Rights Watch, which said Ms. Brown died last Sunday in Manhattan, describes its mission as striving to protect human rights worldwide by focusing attention where those rights are violated and giving voice to the oppressed.

Executive director Kenneth Roth said Thursday that Ms. Brown ‘‘played a central role in establishing the high standards that have come to define Human Rights Watch.’’

‘‘She was principled and uncompromising and played a big part in making Human Rights Watch that way,’’ he said.

The organization credited Ms. Brown with helping to create its strategy of putting together documentation of abuses along with advocating in Washington for the US government to withhold military and political support of governments accused of violations.


Ms. Brown also was instrumental in the formation of Human Rights Watch’s division dedicated to women’s rights, involved in putting together the framework and helping get money for it and finding the staff for it.

She remained in the position until 1999 and then continued to work with the organization in roles on the policy committee and elsewhere.

Human Rights Watch said Ms. Brown leaves her daughter and two sisters.