WASHINGTON — Syrian forces targeted veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin, killed in Syria 2012, and then celebrated after they learned their rockets had killed her, chilling new court documents claim.
In the court documents unsealed Monday, a former Syrian intelligence agent alleges an informant told the Damascus government about Colvin’s location the night before she was killed.
Colvin, a native of New York City and a reporter for Britain’s Sunday Times, died in a rocket attack during the siege of Homs, the day after a telephone interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which she said that the Syrian war was “the worst” conflict she had ever covered.
The new court documents include the statement by the officer, who has defected from the war-ravaged nation. The intelligence defector, codenamed Ulysses, provides a detailed account of how Syria President Bashar Assad’s military and intelligence officials sought to capture or kill journalists and media activists in Homs, a center of the pro-democratic revolution that erupted across Syria in the spring of 2011.
The intelligence defector said that when Colvin’s death was confirmed, Syrian Maj. Gen. Rafiq Shahadah exclaimed: “Marie Colvin was a dog and now she’s dead. Let the Americans help her now.”
Marie Colvin’s sister, Cat, first filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Syrian government in a Washington, D.C. court in 2016. She and her lawyer are now asking the judge for a default judgment — a win by default, because the Syrian government has not showed up to defend the case.
“If I could throw Assad in prison, that’s what I would do,” Cat Colvin told Christiane Amanpour in an interview airing Tuesday.
Short of that, she said, “I think that every penny I can get out of the Assad regime is less that they can spend on barrel bombs and chemical weapons.”
Colvin is asking for compensation for lost earnings, grief compensation and punitive damages.
Cat Colvin’s lawyers say the rocket attack on Colvin’s location was deliberate. “The regime meticulously planned and carried out this rocket attack on the media center,” Scott Gilmore, a lead lawyer in the case, told Amanpour.
Marie Colvin had years of experience in war zones. She covered conflicts in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, East Timor and Sri Lanka where she lost the sight in her left eye in a blast. The black patch she wore over her eye became her trademark.
They acknowledge that getting money from the Assad regime is unlikely, but they hope that their case can help establish evidence of a “chain of command” to be used in a possible future war crimes trial.
Gilmore said that years of meticulous investigation led him and his team to the defector, code-named “Ulysses” in court documents.
“What he revealed was really that from the moment that Marie, Paul Conroy and other journalists — Arwa Damon from CNN, Paul Wood from the BBC — as they were arriving in Lebanon, there were intelligence sources tracking their movements.”
“All of that was being channeled to the military and security officials that were overseeing the armed operations in Homs, with specific instructions that the intelligence forces were to track them down and capture them if possible or otherwise kill them.”
The Syrian government did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the case, but has previously denied targeting journalists.
“The army forces didn’t know that Marie Colvin existed somewhere because before that we hadn’t known about Marie Colvin,” Bashar al-Assad told NBC in a 2016 interview.
Cat Colvin said that she still thinks of her sister every day.
“I’ve become much more angry about the silencing of journalists and the ongoing bombing of civilians. I really thought Marie’s death would be sort of a watershed event, and the world would take notice, or the US government would find the targeting and murder of an American citizen intolerable.”
“But none of that happened.”