The Tadmur (Palmyra) Prison Massacre on its 27th Anniversary…Still Awaiting for Justice

On 27th June 1980, the Syrian Regime’s death machine slaughtered approximately 1000 Islamic detainees as they sat defenceless within their cells in the desert prison of Tadmur. The machine used to carry out this operation was the Defence Brigades, headed and commanded directly by the president’s brother and vice-president for security issues, Rifat al-Asad. It released two battalions towards Tadmur Prison where they butchered the isolated detainees in cold blood whilst they were unaware of what was being prepared for them. The detainees had not been trialled, neither fairly or arbitrarily, and no decision or sentence had been passed against them, whether from a fair, exceptional, or even a field court.

This massacre was not the only one carried out by the Syrian regime in that dreadful prison. For two decades and until its official closure in early 2001, massacres continued harvesting thousands of human souls who were killed in mass execution campaigns. This is consistent with the statement made by the former Syrian Defence Minister Mustafa Talas to the German “Der Spiegel” Magazine, that he would weekly endorse the execution of almost 150 political Islamic detainees for many years. That is in addition to the daily bloodshed and murder that took place during torture.

The numbers of those who have been swallowed by Tadmur Prison and vanished  therein have reached 17000, among them doctors and engineers, scholars and scientists, farmers and villagers, teachers and students, poets and men of letters, elderly and minors. The Syrian regime has not released the details of this file, which has been overwhelmed by the depths of darkness, leaving many members of the Syrian public patiently awaiting the return of their fathers, husbands, brothers and friends, disregarding and disbelieving the reports issued by many human rights organisations that the detainees of Tadmur prison have been killed and will not return to their loved families.

Although twenty seven years have elapsed since the initiation of the mass liquidation campaign in Tadmur prison, the Syrian authorities that carried out such serious violations have chosen to completely ignore the issue and continue to do so today. In addition, whoever attempts to enquire about a missing friend or relative is dealt with ruthlessly, reflecting  their lack of respect for human life and lack of sensitivity towards the feelings and emotions of the relatives of those who have disappeared. It also shows that the Syrian authorities underestimate the civil and legal necessities arising from vanishing of such massive number to settle various family, social and legal matters.

 Throughout the past years, the Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) has called upon the Syrian Authorities on numerous occasions to settle this tragic issue, without receiving any positive response. However, with the deep conviction that the truth will never be extinguished with the progression of time and the passing of days and the confirmation of divine jurisprudence and legal laws, SHRC reaffirms its call to President Bashar al-Asad to take the following measures:

1- To reveal the names of all those who vanished in Tadmur Prison and all other Syrian prisons, as well as the names of those who are still alive.

2- To reveal the places in which those massacred or killed under torture were buried, and give their families the right of moving their remains to another place of burial if they so wish.

3- To establish an independent investigation into the Tadmur Prison Massacre (27/6/1980) and all other massacres and mass killings that followed it, and to trial all those responsible (both commanders and executors).

4- To provide full compensation to the relatives of those who disappeared in the prison due to the great material, psychological and social sufferings that they endured due to the loss of a father, husband or son.

5- To pass legislations that will prevent any individual from carrying out mass executions of detainees in prisons and detention centres.


Attachments: For further information open the attached links

Names of some victims of Tadmur Prison Massacre (27/6/1980)

Confessions of some Defence Brigades elements that carried out the Massacre of Tadmur Prison (27/6/1980)


Syrian Human Rights Committee

London – 27/6/2007