Nepalese colonel faces torture charges in UK court

Story highlights

  • Nepal has protested Kumar Lama's arrest, says it is committed to human rights
  • He is accused of torturing two people at an army barracks in Nepal
  • The alleged torture occurred during Nepal's civil war, which ended in 2006
  • Human Rights Watch says a culture of impunity for rights abuses in Nepal must end
A Nepalese army colonel will appear in a British court Saturday to face torture charges linked to his alleged actions during his country's civil war, authorities said
Kumar Lama, 46, is accused of two counts of torture at an army barracks in the Nepalese Kapilvastu.
He is accused of intentionally inflicting severe pain or suffering, according to London's Metropolitan Police.
The alleged offenses occurred between April and October, 2005.
Lama is serving as a military observer under the U.N. Mission in Southern Sudan and was on vacation in Britain, Nepalese state media said.
His appearance at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London comes two days after his arrest at a property in St. Leonard's-on-Sea, on England's south coast.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police's counter terrorism squad searched his home.
The investigation into the torture allegations is being led by the squad, which also investigates alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.
Lama was arrested under Britain's 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which allows it to meet its obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture to prosecute anyone on its territory responsible for torture anywhere in the world.
Nepal summoned the British ambassador in Kathmandu on Friday to protest against the arrest, according to state-run Nepal Television.
The government demanded the officer's immediate release, the broadcaster cited Deputy Prime Minister Narayankaji Shrestha as saying. The Nepalese embassy in London has also been told to lodge a protest with the British government, it said.
Nepal's government is committed to ensuring justice, compensation and the human rights of torture victims, Shrestha is quoted as saying.
From the mid-1990s, Maoist rebels in Nepal fought a 10-year civil war to end the country's autocratic rule by the monarchy. More than 13,000 people died in the fighting.
The rebels signed a peace deal with the government in 2006, joined mainstream politics and won the most seats in a 2008 election for the Constituent Assembly. The victory transformed Nepal from a monarchy to a republic after 239 years of autocratic rule.
However, international rights group Human Rights Watch has warned of a lack of progress on accountability for violations since the political process stalled in 2011.
The group's Asia director, Brad Adams, welcomed Lama's arrest Thursday, saying it was "an important step in enforcing the U.N. Convention against Torture. Those responsible for committing torture in Nepal can no longer assume they are beyond the reach of the law in other countries.
"The lesson for the Nepal government and army is that it is time to end the culture of impunity that has left victims waiting for justice for far too long," he said.
Nepal has failed to prosecute anyone for torture committed during the civil war in the nearly seven years since it ended, the Human Rights Watch statement said.
Political disputes continue to plague Nepal, which failed to agree on a new constitution by a May deadline and has yet to hold new elections.
In December, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned about the continuing political deadlock in Nepal.
He urged the country's political parties to resolve their differences and form a broad-based government.
The U.N. said that despite the remaining challenges, there have been important achievements since the end of the civil war, including the integration of former Maoist rebels and removal of minefields.