The Regime of Bashar al-Assad

President Bashar al-Assad with brother, General Maher al-Assad

Defendant the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) is ruled by a single-party dictatorship under the control of President Bashar al-Assad, Regional Secretary of the Socialist Arab Ba’ath Party and General Commander of the Army and Armed Forces (Assad Regime).

The Assad family’s control over Syria dates back to 1970 when a military coup brought Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s father, to power. Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father in 2000 and further entrenched existing corruption, economic inequality and human rights abuses. Since December 29, 1979, the United States has designated Syria a state-sponsor of terrorism.

Bashar al-Assad maintains loyalty and control over the Syrian people through the mukhabarat (a feared network of intelligence agencies modeled after the secret police of the former Soviet bloc), the Syrian military, and paramilitary forces often referred to as “shabiha.” Through these different bodies, President Assad has instrumentalized state terror through the surveil, torture and murder of anyone opposing the Regime.

Assad graffiti

In early 2011, a wave of protests popularly known as the “Arab Spring” swept the Middle East, calling for reform, democracy, and an end to state

brutality and corruption. Largely peaceful protests inspired by the Arab Spring erupted across Syria in March 2011 following the arrest and torture of children who had painted anti-Assad graffiti on a public building in Dera’a. Mass demonstrations calling for reform, an end to corruption, and the release of political prisoners soon spread across Syria.

In response, the Assad Regime launched a brutal crackdown indiscriminately attacking peaceful protesters and engaging in a systematic process of detention, merciless torture and execution of thousands. It mobilized its security, military, and political apparatus to neutralize the opposition, media, and independent civil society using brutal force.

Silencing journalists was central to the Assad Regime’s attempt to crush political opposition. In addition to imposing a media blackout, the Regime instituted an escalating campaign of violence against the media. The Regime’s calculated operation to assassinate Marie Colvin during the siege of Baba Amr in February 2012 was part of its ruthless campaign of targeting journalists. Marie was killed by the Regime on February 22, 2012.