US citizen wins $50 million in torture suit against Syrian regime
Dawes, a 41-year-old American freelance journalist who traveled to Syria in 2012 to cover the Syrian revolution, was detained by pro-regime loyalists shortly after crossing over to northern Syria from Turkey.
He was soon transferred to a Syrian military intelligence branch in Damascus, where he was confined to a windowless cell and subject to repeated torture. Dawes was left with permanent nerve damage and other physical ailments which continue to cause him "profound and lasting agony", the ruling judge on the case wrote.
Rights groups have accused the Syrian regime of using widespread torture in their detention centres, particularly since the breakout of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
Dawes can access payment for the judgment through the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which is funded from proceeds from sanctions.
The Syrian regime did not notify the US government that they had imprisoned Dawes, but a fellow prisoner of his, UK citizen Abbas Khan, told his family during a prison visit about Dawes.
Khan was later "deliberately and intentionally killed", according to a UK inquiry – though the Assad regime claimed he killed himself while in captivity.
Dawes was finally released in 2016 with the mediation of Russia. He filed a suit against the Syrian regime for its ill-treatment of him with the assistance of the Syrian Emergency Task Force in October 2021.
"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.
Syria still holds another US journalist, Austin Tice, who was kidnapped while reporting in Syria in 2012.
The US has repeatedly said that it is confident that Tice is being held by Syria, while the regime claims not to know his whereabouts.
The US has publicly called for Tice's release, while also privately engaging in back-channel negotiations to spring him from captivity.