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UK arrest of Nepal armyman may mean end of impunity

world Updated: Jan 04, 2013 23:04 IST
Utpal Parashar

The arrest of a serving Nepal Army officer in UK on charge of alleged human rights violations during the civil war has raised hopes for end of impunity in the Himalayan nation.

Though news reports from UK haven't disclosed the officer's identity, newspapers in Nepal have identified him as Colonel Kumar Lama, 46, who had arrived in UK recently after completing a UN peace mission in Sudan.

The officer was arrested on Thursday by a specialist unit of Metropolitan Police Service from East Sussex where his wife works as a nurse. Lama currently resides in UK and has been granted British citizenship.

Lama is accused of torturing detainees during Nepal's 1996-2006 civil war. As per an Amnesty International report, in 2005 he had tortured two detainees while posted as battalion commander in Kapilvastu district.

This is the first case of a serving Nepal Army officer arrested in foreign soil for human rights violations committed in his country.

Lama has been arrested under provisions of the Criminal Justice Act of 1988 which permits the UK government to arrest and prosecute those accused of rights violations committed overseas.

"We welcome this move by the UK government. This could be the first step towards ending impunity in Nepal," said lawyer-cum-activist Mandira Sharma of the Advocacy Forum.

Despite provisions in the 2006 peace accord and several court verdicts, Nepal government is yet to take action against Maoists or security officials involved in human rights violations during the civil war.

Over 13,000 people were killed and a thousand more disappeared during the civil war, but the proposed truth and reconciliation commission to probe serious cases of rights violations is yet to be constituted.

"The Nepal government should take the UK move as an opportunity to start the process of justice for victims and their families," said Sharma.

A release issued by UK law firm Hickman & Rose on behalf of one of the victims said he has welcomed the arrest and hoped that unlike Nepal, the British system will deliver justice.

"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," said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch in a release.