Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Syria first in US history

The family of slain U.S. born journalist Marie Colvin filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a Washington, D.C. federal court Saturday against the Syrian Foreign Ministry, claiming Bashar al-Assad’s government illegally targeted journalists embedded in the war-torn city of Homs in 2012.

Specifically, the lawsuit cites a fax sent from Syria’s National Security Bureau in August 2011 ordering attacks against “those who tarnish the image of Syria in foreign media and international organizations”.

Colvin worked for a UK-based publication, The Sunday Times, from 1985 until her death on Feb. 22, 2012, not long after setting up a media center in the Baba Amr section of Homs to report on the inhumane conditions there, caused mainly by Syrian military attacks.

Plaintiff’s court filings claim, “The Assad regime received tips from intelligence sources in Lebanon that Colvin and other foreign journalists were traveling to Syria through Lebanon . . . Acting on these tips, senior members of the Assad regime formed a plan to intercept the journalists’ communications, track their movement to locate the media center, and kill the journalists with artillery fire.”

In addition, the complaint alleges “no lawful military targets,” were in the area at the time Baba Amr was bombed.

Colvin gave her last interview to CNN shortly before she was killed along with French photographer, Remi Ochlik.

According to the Center for Justice & Accountability, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization, which brought the civil lawsuit on behalf of Colvin’s sister and niece, this is the first such legal action against the al-Assad regime in American history.

Only three countries in the world are currently eligible to be named defendants in U.S. civil suits — Syria, Iran and Sudan — all listed as state-sponsors of terrorism.

Typically, foreign governments ignore civil lawsuits, in which case judgement automatically goes to the plaintiffs who are then entitled to collect damages through the sale of U.S. assets held by the defendant.

A New Jersey-based attorney currently involved in a lawsuit against the government of Iran, however, told Reuters that locating property held by terrorist sponsors in the U.S. could take “decades”, as such purchases are usually made through third-parties to conceal the identity of the actual owners.

 

[Reuters] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Khalil Hamra/AP via USA Today]