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American Wrongfully Detained in Syria Wins $50 Million Judgment Against the Assad Regime

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JANUARY 4, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC – On October 31, 2023, US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered a judgment against the Assad regime of nearly $50 million for the unlawful detention and torture of US citizen Kevin Dawes. With the help of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, Mr. Dawes filed suit against the Assad regime on October 15, 2021, in the US District Court in Washington, DC. 

Kevin Dawes is a 41-year-old American freelance photographer and humanitarian activist who was kidnapped, tortured, and held in solitary confinement by the Assad regime from October 3, 2012, to April 1, 2016.

Mr. Dawes crossed into northwestern Syria from Turkey in 2012, hoping to provide medicine to civilians and cover their plight. Soon after, he was captured and transferred to an Intelligence Branch in Damascus. The Syrian regime did not acknowledge holding Mr. Dawes until another prisoner, a British doctor named Abbas Khan, was able to inform the British government that Mr. Dawes was also wrongfully detained.

In his ruling, Judge Contreras states that “Syria’s conduct reflects the type of ‘extreme, deliberate and unusually cruel practices’ that other courts have held to constitute torture” and that “the character of Syria’s acts is reprehensible and deserving of the most severe condemnation.”

Mr. Dawes has been struggling with the physical and mental aftermath of the horrific torture he endured for nearly four years. Despite his trauma, Mr. Dawes has continued to speak out on behalf of the countless civilians who remain in Assad’s dungeons, enduring unspeakable torture. 

SETF is proud to have Mr. Dawes as part of its family and as a voice of conscience for the tens of thousands of detainees in Syria.

“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. While this will relieve a lot of misery, I think that the involved parties would rather have their loved ones back,” said Kevin Dawes. 

SETF will continue working with brave survivors and witnesses like Mr. Dawes, who are using their voices to shed light on the ongoing atrocities perpetrated by the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, against civilians.


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Maria Cure, Director of Communications
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