Rafiq Shahadah – Marie Colvin case
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Rafiq Shahadah is a general of the Syrian armed forces, who served as adviser to President Bashar al-Assad on strategic issues and military intelligence. He was appointed head of military intelligence in July 2012. Since 2011 he has been targeted by European sanctions because of his supposed leadership of the military intelligence in charge of internal affairs in Damascus and his role in the repression of the civilian population.
On 22 February 2012, while war correspondent Marie Colvin was covering the siege of the city of Homs, she lost her life in an attack of the Syrian government forces against the building where she was with other journalists. Shahadah is accused of being one of the Syrian officials behind this attack.
On July 9, 2016, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and the law firm Shearman & Sterling filed a lawsuit against the Syrian government for the murder of war correspondent Marie Colvin, on behalf of her family. The complaint was filed before the Columbia District, for the murder of a US citizen under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a federal law allowing victims to sue states considered to provide support to terrorism, such as Syria. He is one of the Syrian officials named and concerned by the complaint.
Information provided by a Syrian intelligence deserter, whose pseudonym is Ulysse, testified that Syrian officials would have celebrated the journalist’s death and that Shahadah reportedly said “Marie Colvin was a dog and now she is dead. Let the Americans help her now”. He also allegedly sent the armed forces with instructions to “take the necessary measures” following the interception of communications from the attacked press center.
The Syrian government did not respond to the complaint but Bashar al-Assad denied targeting and killing Colvin to stifle his reporting on the conflict. However, he declared that Marie Colvin had illegally entered Syrian territory and worked with terrorists.