Marie Colvin: Syrian government found liable for death of Sunday Times reporter

The family of Marie Colvin launched legal action against the Assad regime after she was killed in an attack on a media centre.

The Syrian government has been found liable for the death of Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin, who was killed in a rocket attack on a media centre.

French photographer Remi Ochlik also died as a result of the blast, which happened in the Baba Amr neighbourhood of the western city of Homs in February 2012.

Ms Colvin, 56, was on assignment with Syrian translator Wael al-Omar and war photographer Paul Conroy.

Her family launched legal action in the US against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, charging it with arranging her death, and Columbia District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in their favour on Thursday.

The Syrian government was ordered to pay $302m (£230m) in damages for the death of the award-winning journalist, which Mr Conroy – a former Royal Artillery soldier – said left him feeling “emotional and vindicated”.

He said he had repeatedly told people upon returning from the country that devastating attacks like the one that killed Ms Colvin “were not random”.

“I sat for a long time listening to the shelling and it was random, up and down, and on the day of the attack there was a distinct pattern of bracketing and that has stuck with me,” he recalled.

“A lot of people were like ‘oh you got caught up in crossfire, you were in a war zone’, and granted we were, but as an artilleryman I knew the fire patterns, I detected that.”

Mr Conroy – who escaped the deadly strike with a leg injury – said he and the Colvin family wanted to use her case to highlight what the Assad regime “has done to its own people”.

But he said the ruling had come too late for the Syrian people, who he said had endured “the worst hell”.

“We can now use this case to point at our own politicians and world leaders who are thinking that the Assad regime can be rehabilitated back into the international democratic fold, as it were,” he said.

“It’s also important that we keep this going, the case against the regime is now proven, this should now go into the higher courts and these people should be held to account. It’s a great building block.

“The evidence that the UN has about atrocities and massacres is undoubtable but it needs will, political will, to bring these people to account. But hopefully this is the start.”

In her ruling, Judge Jackson determined the attack was part of a “long-standing policy of violence” by the Syrian regime against media personnel, who were “labelled enemies of the state”.

She said Assad “intended to intimidate journalists” like American reporter Ms Colvin, who the government said had been killed by an explosive device planted by terrorists.

After the ruling, her sister Cathleen said: “It’s been almost seven years since my sister was killed by the Assad regime and not a day goes by when I don’t think of her.

“My heart goes out to the families of the many thousands of victims of the Syrian conflict. 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.”

A film about Ms Colvin starring Rosamund Pike, A Private War, will be released in UK cinemas on 15 February.

It has been critically acclaimed and received multiple nominations at the Golden Globes earlier this month.

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