A U.S. federal judge has determined that the Syrian government was responsible for the 2012 killing of American journalist Marie Colvin, 56, while she was covering the country’s civil war.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled late Wednesday that the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad targeted journalists during that country’s civil war with the objective of suppressing coverage.
She ordered the government to pay $302 million to Colvin’s family. Colvin, who was based in London, was covering the war out of a makeshift studio in Syria for the United Kingdom newspaper Sunday Times.
The court opinion said that the Syrian government “discovered that foreign journalists were broadcasting reports from a Media Center in Baba Amr” and “launched an artillery attack against it, for the purpose of killing the journalists inside.”
A French photographer, Remi Ochlik, was killed along with Colvin.
Colvin’s family filed a lawsuit in 2016 accusing the Assad regime of sending rockets toward the studio where Colvin and other journalists worked.
“A targeted attack on a media center hosting foreign journalists that resulted in two fatalities and multiple injuries … is an unconscionable act,” Jackson wrote, explaining her ruling.
The judge wrote that Colvin was “specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country. [The] murder of journalists acting in their professional capacity could have a chilling effect on reporting such events worldwide.”
“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…is warranted.”
The court is ordering the Syrian government to pay Colvin’s family $2.5 million in compensation and $11,836 in funeral expenses, according to The Guardian.
The Committee to Protect Journalists lauded the ruling.
“This finding that Syria is responsible for deliberately killing Marie Colvin will not bring her back, but it will send a strong message to authorities worldwide that murdering journalists has consequences,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement. “As the international community continues to demand accountability for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, the U.S. court’s verdict highlights the potential for justice and puts governments everywhere on notice.”
CPJ added: “Evidence unsealed during the lawsuit in the D.C. court found that Syrian military officials responsible for the killing were rewarded with new cars and promotions.”
CPJ says that at least 126 journalists have been killed covering the conflict in Syria, making it the second deadliest country for the media since the organization began tracking journalist murders in 1992.
Colvin’s career was captured in a film, “A Private War,” which was released last year and starred British actress Rosamund Pike.
“Once she got into a war zone, she got on with the job. She was no different from the rest of us except that she went in further and stayed longer,” television journalist Lindsey Hilsum and a friend of Colvin told The National in an interview. “She had incredible grit and endurance.”