Nuhanovic Foundation

Reparations Database

US District Court of Columbia, Colvin vs Syria





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Marie Colvin, the renowned American war correspondent was assassinated, on the 22nd of February 2016, while reporting for the Sunday Times the atrocities committed by the Assad regime against civilians during the siege of Homs.

On the 9th of July 2016, the CJA in collaboration with Shearman & Sterling LLP filed a complaint, on behalf of Marie Colvin’s sister and niece, before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the Syrian Arab Republic. Their action was brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act 28 USC §1330 and 1605A, which provide for jurisdiction over all civil actions for personal injury or death of an US national caused by acts of extrajudicial killing carried out by state sponsors of terrorism and their officials, employees, and agents.

The plaintiffs argue that Syrian governments agents launched a targeted rocket attack, with premeditation, against the makeshift broadcast studio knowing that Marie Colvin and other journalists were residing and reporting from there. Moreover, the journalists and media activists present in the Media Centre represented unarmed non-combatants and no lawful military target in the vicinity could have justified the use of deadly force. They affirmed that this attack was part of the regime’s efforts to control and ultimately eliminate journalists to silence local and international medias, and eventually to crush the political opposition.

Importantly the complaint names nine Syrian officials and agents, who allegedly planned and allowed for the attack. This list includes some of the officials placed at the Regime’s highest level, such as Maher Al-Assad – the President’s brother, Ali Mamluk – director of Syria’s National Intelligence bureau, Rafiq Shahadah, former director of military intelligence, Issam Zahreddine, major general of the Republican guard.

The court found that the killing constituted a war crime violating international law. Therefore Syria should be liable for the acts of its officials, employees and agents which directly led to Marie Colvin’s extrajudicial killing, on the basis of violations of the Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians persons in times of war, and the violation of her special protection as a journalist found in the Rules 34 of the ICRC’s compilation of customary international law and the article 79 of Additional Protocol I. In addition the article 6(1) of the ICCPR was also breached.  

Under 28 USC §1065A(c), the plaintiffs are entitled to compensatory damages for the economic losses resulting from the wrongful death, for the personal injury resulting from the intentional infliction of emotional distress and solatium. Additionally the same article imposes punitive damages on Syria. It was stated that the amount of all of these damages should be determined at trial.

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