Justice served

U.S court finds Syria liable for ‘targeted murder’ of journalist Marie Colvin, orders $300m damages

Journalist Marie Colvin poses for a photograph with Libyan rebels (unseen) in Misrata in a June 4, 2011 file photograph. (REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

A U.S. court has found the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad liable in the 2012 death of American journalist Marie Colvin, ordering it to pay $300 million in punitive damages.

In a judgment published on Thursday, the Syrian government was found to have targeted journalists deliberately during the country’s civil war in order to “intimidate newsgathering” and suppress dissent.

Colvin was reporting from the western Syrian city of Homs when the makeshift media center where she was working was shelled, killing her and 28-year-old French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik, 28.

Colvin’s sister Cathleen and Cathleen’s three children filed the lawsuit against the Assad regime in a Washington court in 2016, asserting their claims under a federal law that permits victims to sue U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism.

“It’s been almost seven years since my sister was killed by the Assad regime, and not a day goes by when I don’t think of her,” Cathleen said on Thursday.

“My heart goes out to the families of the many thousands of victims of the Syrian conflict. It is my greatest hope that the court’s ruling will lead to other criminal prosecutions, and 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 today.”

In her decision, judge Amy Jackson of the US district court for the District of Columbia declared that Marie Colvin was “specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country. [The] murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide.”

“A targeted murder of an American citizen, whose courageous work was not only important, but vital to our understanding of war zones and of wars generally, is outrageous, and therefore a punitive damages award that multiples the impact on the responsible state is warranted.”

As well as awarding $300m in punitive damages, the court also ordered Syria to pay $2.5m in compensation to Colvin’s sister and $11,836 in funeral expenses.

In 2016, Assad said in a television interview that Colvin was responsible for her own death because she had entered the country illegally and was working with “terrorists”.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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