Feb. 1 (UPI) — A U.S. federal court Thursday ruled the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is liable for the 2012 death of American journalist Marie Colvin.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson awarded $302.5 million to Colvin’s relatives, including $300 million from Syria for what she described as its “longstanding policy of violence” that sought to “intimidate journalists” and “suppress dissent,” The New York Times reported.
“[The] murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide,” Jackson said in her ruling. “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.”
Scott Gilmore, a lawyer for Colvin’s family, said he hopes the ruling will “provide a blueprint” for future cases against the Syrian regime.
“This stands as a really stunning rebuke to autocratic governments around the world who have declared open season on journalists and opposition figures,” Gilmore said.
Colvin, who worked as a reporter for UPI early in her career died in February 2012 while reporting on the Syrian civil war, as a war correspondent for Britain’s The Sunday Times.
Both she and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik were killed in a rocket attack on a media center in the city of Homs.
Colvin’s sister, Cathleen, and her three children filed the claim against Assad’s regime in a Washington D.C. court, under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows claimants to sue foreign countries for compensation and punitive damages in U.S. courts.
“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,” she said.
Gilmore said the family would seek Syrian state property that could be seized to complete the payment.
Syria hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, but Assad has previously blamed Colvin’s death on what he described as “working with terrorists.”