On Saturday, the family of Marie Colvin—an American war reporter who was killed in Syria on February 22, 2012—filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in D.C.’s District Court against the Syrian government. Colvin, a longtime correspondent for The Sunday Times was killed in an artillery barrage, along with French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik.
According to the New York Times, Colvin’s family alleges in the civil complaint that Colvin’s death was the result of a conspiracy among high-ranking Syrian officials, including President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher, to track, target, and silence foreign journalists whose reporting clashed with official government accounts. In Colvin’s case, she was reporting on civilian casualties in the Syrian city of Homs, which was indiscriminately shelled and laid siege to by government forces.
Scott Gilmore, a lawyer with the Center for Justice and Accountability in Washington told the New York Times that this is the first time the Syrian government has been sued under a statute that allows Americans to sue foreign governments that the United States determines to be a sponsor of terrorism.
The New York Times reports that, according to the complaint, journalists and activists were systemically surveilled and targeted by the Syrian government:
The lawsuit accuses nine Syrian officials, including the intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk and military officers in Homs, of developing and executing the strategy against journalists and activists. It details meetings in which an informant helped officials verify the location of the media center using phone-tracking data. It even contends that a pro-government militia leader, Khaled al-Fares, received “a black luxury car” three days after the deaths, as a reward.
The family’s evidence includes a government letter dated August 6, 2011, which orders officials in Syrian provinces where protests were taking place to arrest organizers along with any people who “tarnish the image of Syria in foreign media,” the Times reports.