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Mothers of the disappeared in Vavuniya condemn president's denial of secret detention camps

Mothers of the disappeared in Vavuniya on Friday condemned the Sri Lankan president's denial of the existence of secret detention camps. 

"Where are our children then?" one mother cried as they gathered at the temple to say a prayer for the missing children. 

The families have been holding a prolonged protest demanding the Sri Lankan government reveal the whereabouts of the disappeared, release a list of all those who surrendered to the military and for the location of secret detention centres to be made public.  

Speaking at an election rally this week in Jaffna Maithripala Sirisena said that he had met with the relatives of the disappeared and was “concerned about their problem of the missing relatives”, but he said there were no secret detention centers on the island, contradicting reports by non-governmental organisations and a UN body which confirmed their existence.

Mr Sirisena told the rally that “I made inquiries and I tell them on behalf of the government that there are no such camps run by the government".

His comments contradict the findings of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID) who in 2015 ) announced that it had discovered a “secret underground detention cum torture center” located in Sri Lanka and called on the government to reveal the existence of other such centers if any existed.

It also goes against the findings of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC), a government appointed commission which admitted that the use of torture remains “routine” last year, with reports of undocumented sites across the island.