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Mangala denies existence of secret detention centres in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera denied the existence of secret detention centres on the island, in a speech made to parliament last week.

"As we have mentioned before, there are no secret detention centres in operation in this country under this Government," said the minister.

"If anyone in Sri Lanka or overseas has any information regarding any such facility that may be in operation, the Government will take upon itself the task of ensuring that such facilities are examined and action is taken under the due process of the law," added Mr Samaraweera.

His comments come after the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances  (UN WGEID) visited the island and announced that it had discovered a “secret underground detention cum torture center”, calling on the government to reveal the existence of other such centers if any existed.

The minister though seemingly denied the group's findings, stating that their visit "proved to those both within the country and outside the country who allege that there are still secret detention centres in operation in this site, that there are no such detention centres in existence anymore in the Navy Base in Trincomalee".

Earlier this year the International Truth and Justice Project Sri Lanka (ITJP) also published a report identifying 41 locations where victims say they were tortured since the end of the armed conflict, adding the sites identified represent "only a fraction of the total number of torture sites".

"This House is aware of the allegations against our armed forces personnel," added the minister in his speech. "This House is aware of the allegations about secret detention camps being maintained. Even if we scream at the top of our voices, saying that there are no secret detention centres in existence, such allegations will not go away until we prove that there are no such places in existence."

Mr Samaraweera also addressed the UN WGEID's findings of sexual harassment and violence against the mothers of wives of disappeared persons. "At times this is alleged to have been in exchange of promised information on their relatives’ cases," said the minister. He went on to add that the government would "take action" against those involved in the violence, and that it was "in the process of formulating guidelines to be observed by the police and security forces personnel".

See the full text of his speech here.

Also see our earlier posts:

Evidence of another torture cell revealed in buildings formerly occupied by Sri Lanka's army (01 Dec 2015)

UN confirms existence of secret torture camps in Sri Lanka, calls on gov to reveal other possible locations (18 Nov 2015)

Sri Lanka continues 'multifaceted assault of terror' on Tamils under new government (28 Jul 2015)

Tamils still held in secret Sri Lankan military camps (31 Mar 2015)