A U.S. judge has ruled that Syrian psychopath Baschar al-Assad and his government are liable for at least $302.5 million in damages for its role in the 2012 death of renowned American journalist Marie Colvin while covering the Syrian civil war for Britain’s Sunday Times. In effect, the Colvin family wins case against Assad brutality.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a ruling made public on Wednesday that the Syrian government “engaged in an act of extrajudicial killing of a United States national.”
The Assad Government killed Colvin, a 56-year-old war correspondent. It also killed French photographer Remi Ochlik in the besieged Syrian city of Homs while reporting on the Syrian conflict.
The Colvin family filed the lawsuit in U.S. federal court in 2016. The family accused officials in Assad’s government of deliberately targeting rockets against Marie Colvin. She and others were staying in a makeshift broadcast studio where reporters were living and working.
FIRST SEEKING TO HOLD ASSAD ACCOUNTABLE
Colvin’s family was represented by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, which focuses on human rights litigation. Executive director, Dixon Osburn, said the lawsuit was the first seeking to hold the Assad government liable for war crimes. Since Osborn filed the lawsuit, there has been some similar legal action in Europe, including Germany.
The ruling, Osburn added, could help pave the way for greater scrutiny of Assad’s conduct.
“It’s the first proving ground that the Assad regime has engaged in war crimes. He has engaged in a brutal set of crimes against humanity,” Osburn said in an interview.
The judge wrote that “a targeted attack on a media center hosting foreign journalists that resulted in two fatalities and multiple injuries … is an unconscionable act.” The judge ruled that additional damages would be calculated at a later date.
When the Colvin family wins case against Assad brutality, it will help others file similar grievance cases. The Assad family has been murdering Americans since the 1983 attack against U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
COLVIN FAMILY WINS CASE IS A DETERRENT AGAINST FUTURE ATTACKS
Colvin’s sister, Cathleen Colvin, said she hoped the ruling will “serve as a deterrent against future attacks on the press and on civilians.”
“Marie dedicated her life to fighting for justice on behalf of the victims of war and ensuring that their stories were heard. This case is an extension of her legacy, and I think she’d be proud of what we achieved,” she added.
The lawsuit described the attack as part of a plan orchestrated at the highest levels of Assad’s government. It intended to silence local and international media “as part of its effort to crush political opposition”. Some of the evidence supporting the lawsuit was provided by two defectors from the Syrian government.
Lawyers for the family included as evidence a copy of an August 2011 fax. It showed Syria’s National Security Bureau had instructed security bodies to launch military and intelligence campaigns against “those who tarnish the image of Syria in foreign media and international organizations.”
Jackson wrote in the ruling that the day before the attack, an informant provided the location of the media center to the Syrian government. That night, Colvin had given live interviews to CNN and two British broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4.
ASSAD GOVERNMENT CELEBRATES KILLING COLVIN
There is evidence that Syrian officials celebrated after the attack, Jackson added.
In a 2016 interview with NBC News quoted by CNN, Assad said Colvin herself was at fault in her death. Assad said:
It’s a war and she came illegally to Syria, she worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she’s responsible of everything that befell her.
A biographical film about Colvin, called “A Private War”, was released last year, bringing fresh attention to her career. British actress Rosamund Pike starred in the movie.
U.S. courts periodically handle lawsuits filed against foreign governments accusing them of liability in the death or injury of Americans. For example, a U.S. court on Dec. 24 ordered North Korea’s government to pay $501 million in damages for the torture and death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier. Otto died in 2017 shortly after North Korea released him from prison.
Reuters contributed to this article.