In the spring of 2011, thousands of Syrians rose up to protest the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. In response, the Assad Regime launched a crackdown, which has spiraled into the Middle East’s bloodiest civil war, killing more than 400,000 people and displacing over 6 million. Among the victims was renowned war correspondent Marie Colvin who had snuck into the besieged city of Homs, despite the Assad Regime’s efforts to prohibit all reporting.
Broadcasting live from a clandestine media center, Marie told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that it was “a complete and utter lie that they’re only going after terrorists… The Syrian army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.” Hours later, the Syrian army fired a barrage of artillery at Marie’s position, killing her along with the French photographer Rémi Ochlik.
Around the world, friends, family, survivors of the multiple wars she had covered, and the international journalist community honored Marie for her sacrifice. At the same time they grappled with an unsolved mystery: Who killed Marie Colvin – and why?
Lawyers from the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA) stepped in to uncover the truth.
After a five-year, globetrotting investigation, CJA unearthed evidence that proved what had been long suspected: Marie was deliberately assassinated by Syrian military and intelligence forces. Her murder was part of a broader conspiracy to neutralize Syrian and foreign media through violence. On February 21, 2012, as Marie was giving her interview to CNN, Syrian intelligence was closing in. Evidence obtained by CJA reveals that the Assad Regime intercepted her broadcasts, confirmed her location through an informant, and then launched a targeted, fatal, rocket attack killing Marie and Rémi. British photographer, Paul Conroy; Syrian interpreter, Wael al-Omar; and French journalist Edith Bouvier were all gravely injured.
On July 9, 2016, CJA and co-counsel Shearman & Sterling LLP filed suit against the Assad Regime for the murder of Marie Colvin. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Marie’s sister, Cathleen Colvin, and her three children. CJA’s lawsuit is the first case seeking to hold the Assad Regime responsible for war crimes. The lawsuit was filed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a federal law that allows victims to sue designated state-sponsors of terrorism, like the government of Syria, for the extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens.
On February 6, 2017, the Assad Regime was served with the complaint, yet neither appeared nor responded. On July 11, 2017, the Court issued an entry of default against the Regime for its failure to defend in the case.
On March 22, 2018, CJA and Shearman & Sterling filed a motion on behalf of their clients seeking the entry of a default judgment against the Assad Regime for Marie’s assassination. The motion was unsealed on April 9, 2018. A wealth of evidence has been submitted to the Court (including statements from high-level defectors of the Regime and never-before-seen confidential government documents smuggled out of Syria) in support of the motion leaving no doubt that the Regime methodically planned and perpetrated Marie’s assassination.
On January 30, 2019, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs provided sufficient evidence that Marie’s death resulted from an extrajudicial killing attributable to Syria and awarded Plaintiffs $302,511,836.00 in compensatory and punitive damages.
The plaintiffs are now represented by counsel Scott Gilmore and Shearman & Sterling.
Click here to learn more about Marie Colvin.