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US citizen wins $50m lawsuit against Assad regime over imprisonment, torture in Syria

January 7, 2024 at 9:33 am

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus [JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images]

An American citizen has won a $50 million lawsuit against Syria’s regime of Bashar al-Assad over his abduction, imprisonment, and torture, almost eight years after he was released from detention.

41-year-old Kevin Dawes, an American freelance journalist, was detained by forces loyal to the Assad regime after he crossed over into northern Syria from Turkiye in 2012, and was then transferred to a Syrian military intelligence branch in Damascus. There he was kept in a windowless cell and subjected to repeated torture, a practice commonly conducted by regime authorities throughout its vast prison network.

He was finally released in 2016 through the mediation of Russia, one of the Syrian regime’s main allies. According to the judge ruling on the case, the four-year ordeal left Dawes with permanent nerve damage and other physical ailments, all of which continue to cause him “profound and lasting agony”.

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Throughout his detention, the Syrian regime did not notify the US government of the imprisonment, leaving it to a fellow prisoner – British citizen Abbas Khan – to inform his family during a prison visit regarding Dawes. A UK inquiry has since revealed that Khan was later “deliberately and intentionally killed”, a claim which Damascus denies and maintains that he killed himself under detention.

It was in October 2021 that Dawes filed the lawsuit with the assistance of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), accusing the Assad regime for its ill-treatment and torture.

“Many of the legal precedents cited in the judge’s ruling were established by the cases of dead friends. the scope of the Syrian tragedy cannot be understated,” Dawes said following the ruling on Tuesday.

He is now reportedly able to access payment for the judgment through the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism (USVSST) Fund, which is funded by proceeds from sanctions the US has imposed on states like Syria and the entities and individuals connected to them.

READ: Lawsuit against Syria regime filed at US court over torture of Syrian-American national