Family of Marie Colvin Sues Assad for War Crimes

Just as the family of Marie Colvin has sued Assad for war crimes, the family of Dr. Abbas Khan must do the same.

The Syr­ian regime of Bashar al-Assad targeted and killed US repo­rter Marie Colvin in February 2012 to stop her from covering government atro­cities, according to a lawsuit filed in US court on 9th July 2016.

The Syrian military intelligence intercepted Colvin’s communications and unleashed a barrage of rocket fire on her in the besieged city of Homs, according to documents filed in US district court in Washington.

Colvin, a long-time war correspondent for the British new­s­paper The Sunday Tim­es, was killed with French photographer Remi Ochlik. British photographer Paul Con­­roy, French reporter Edi­th Bouvier, and Syrian media defender Wael al-Omar were wounded in the same attack.

As Marie Colvin’s is the first war crime case against the Assad regime, the unlawful murder of the British Dr Abbas Khan should be the next war crime case against the thuggish regime of Bashar al Assad.

Marie Colvin speaking.
Marie Colvin speaking.

The Sunday Times reporter was killed in the city of Homs by the Syrian regime in February 2012. The Syrian government tracked and assassinated Marie Colvin to stop her reporting on its atrocities, according to a lawsuit filed by her family. Marie Colvin, a veteran war correspondent was killed by rockets fired at a house she had been staying at in the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs, western Syria, in February 2012.

Hours before her death she told CNN via Skype that that the Syrian army was shelling a city of cold starving civilians. The family of Colvin is suing the Assad regime under the US Foreign Sovereign immunities Act. This is the first war crimes case against the Assad regime. “This case is about carrying on Marie’s work,” plaintiff Cathleen Colvin, Marie Colvin’s sister, said.

“We are seeking truth and justice not just for her, but for thousands of innocent Syrians tortured or killed under the Assad dictatorship,” she said in a statement released by U.S. human rights group the Centre for Justice and Accountability (CJA) which filed the case for the Colvin family.

Advocacy group Reporters without Borders said it supported the lawsuit.

It is worth remembering that in 2012 no one had heard of ISIS which surfaced in the summer of 2013. The unlawful murder of Colvin has focused attention on the Syrian regime’s crimes against humanity. Journalists were deliberately targeted to stop them reporting the crimes of the regime.

The Abbas Khan Story

One such crime was committed in December 2013 against Abbas Khan, a British doctor who was “in effect murdered” by the Syrian authorities just days before his expected release from jail. Mr Khan was arrested by al Qaeda elements in November 2012 in Aleppo where he was helping civilians. He was handed over to the regime. This suggests some kind of link between al Qaeda and the regime.

Three days before the family were told that he committed suicide, a Syrian government official told the family that Dr Khan would be released within days.

According to an Evening Standard report 17th December 2013: “In two handwritten letters, passed to the then Foreign Secretary William Hague by his mother, Dr Khan wrote: “I have been violently forced to beat other prisoners, kept in squalid conditions, denied access to toilets or medical treatment.” He also experienced “male prisoners being beaten to death and female prisoners screaming as they were being abused.”

The regime lied to the mother that her son would be released. Then they murdered him to stop him talking to the world media.

On 25 January 2014 the Huffington Post reported that Dr Abbas Khan’s family has told the BBC that he has died in detention, where he had been for over a year.

And his family said the claim by Syrian authorities that he had killed himself was impossible.

dr abbas khan
Dr. Abbas Khan. Photo from video screenshot.

Amnesty International called for the Syrian conflict to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

According to the Independent Dr Abbas Khan was about to be handed over to MP George Galloway and freed, on the instructions of Syrian President Assad.

Galloway reportedly described the surgeon’s death as “inexplicable,” and said the suicide claims were “impossible to believe.”

Kristyan Benedict, of Amnesty International, said: “The UK government should denounce Dr Khan’s death in the strongest possible terms and ensure that, no matter how long it takes, whoever is responsible is brought to justice.”

“Dr Khan’s tragic death reinforces the need for the UK to continue pressing for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.”

The Foreign Office said at the time “We are extremely concerned by reports that a British national has died in detention in Syria.”

“We are urgently seeking clarification of this from the Syrian authorities.”

President Assad had ordered his release as a present to the British people before Christmas 2013. But Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad claimed: “Mr Khan committed suicide using his pyjamas to hang himself.” Mr Khan’s family dismissed the claim as absurd.

One of Mr Khan’s brothers, Shahnawaz Khan, said it was “a lie” and “pure fiction” that his brother committed suicide as he had written to his family saying he was looking forward to coming home and spending Christmas with them.

It transpired now that they decided to murder him to stop him exposing the regime’s brutalities within Assad’s prison system. Meanwhile in London, a jury had returned a verdict of unlawful killing at an inquest into the death of Dr Abbas Khan in a Syrian prison.

Khan, 32, an orthopaedic surgeon from Streatham, south London, died on 16 December 2013 in an “unknown prison or place of detention” in Damascus, it said.

The jury of seven men and four women said the medical cause of Khan’s death was “unascertained,” but found his killing unlawful. “Dr Khan was deliberately and intentionally killed without any legal justification,” said the jury forewoman.

The Middle East Foreign Office Minister said those responsible for Dr Khan’s death should be brought to justice.

Isn’t it time Dr Abbas Khan’s family considered suing the Assad regime for the unlawful killing of their son at the hand of Assad’s thugs?

If the Colvin case could help bring Assad and his thugs to justice, her death wouldn’t have been in vain.

Nehad Ismail
Nehad Ismail is a writer and broadcaster, who writes about issues related to the Middle East from his home in London.