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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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Nepal army officer arrested in Britain

Suspicion of war crimes during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal

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LONDON - The Nepalese government has demanded the release of an army officer arrested in Britain on suspicion of war crimes during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal.

Col. Kumar Lama was visiting his wife in St. Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex when he was picked up by London's Metropolitan Police, Republica reported. He is deployed with a Nepalese detachment as part of the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Sudan.

The Nepalese government lodged a formal protest with John Tucknot, the British ambassador in Kathmandu. Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the Foreign Minister, named the arrested man as 46-year-old colonel Kumar Lama, who was taken into custody by British police on Thursday, and called on the British government to release him, reported The Telegraph.

"The arrest of Lama, who has been serving in the United Nations mission in Sudan, without informing the concerned government and without any evidence, is against the general principle of international law and jurisdiction of a sovereign country," said Shrestha.

"We have expressed strong objections to this act. Nepal Army personnel would be punished according to their own internal committee. And we are committed to punish anyone who has violated human rights," Shrestha told reporters.

"This act has hurt our attempt to ensure a long-lasting peace. We are going through a transitional phase and are committed to completing the peace process. We have urged the British government to release him immediately," Shrestha said.

Scotland Yard issued a statement after Thursday's arrest that said Lama is suspected of torture in 2005 during the decade-long civil war in Nepal, The Guardian reported. The complaint was filed by the Advocacy Forum, a Nepalese human rights group, on behalf of an alleged victim.

The forum said police had been given supporting evidence. The Scotland Yard statement said investigators with the counter-terrorism unit would determine if there is enough evidence to present a case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The case could be tried in Britain. "This arrest has brought a ray of hope to victims," Mandira Sharma, the forum's founder, said.

 

Lama, believed to be in Britain to meet his wife who works as a nurse, was arrested under British law which allows prosecutors to act against people suspected of torture no matter where it took place in the world, reports AFP.

The first count against Lama states that between April 15 and May 1, 2005, "as a public official or person acting in an official capacity, at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks, Kapilvastu, Nepal, you intentionally inflicted severe pain or suffering on Janak Bahadur Raut in the performance or purported performance of your official duties", the police statement said.

The second charge says that between April 15 and October 31, 2005, in the same circumstances, the suspect tortured a man named as Karam Hussain.

Lama has been remanded in custody and is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court in central London on Saturday.

More than 16,000 people died in the decade-long conflict between Maoist rebels and government forces which ended in 2006. More than 1,000 are still missing.

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