Nepali colonel accused of torture is remanded in custody

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A Nepalese army officer arrested by police in St Leonards yesterday (Thursday) has been remanded in custody after appearing in court today (Saturday) charged with two counts of torture, allegedly committed during his country’s civil war.

Colonel Kumar Lama, 46, faces a British trial under a law that allows prosecution of alleged war criminals.

The officer, currently seconded to the UN, was held at his St Leonards home by Metropolitan Police officers yesterday.

He appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court today and was remanded in custody until January 24 when he will appear at the Old Bailey in London.

Lama is charged with intentionally ‘inflicting severe pain or suffering’ as a public official on Janak Bahadur Raut between April 15 and May 1, 2005, and on Karam Hussain between April 15 and October 31, 2005.

The charges surround alleged incidents at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks in Nepal.

Lama’s arrest in St Leonards has led to the Nepalese government summoning the UK ambassador in Kathmandu to protest and request Lama’s immediate release.

The officer is currently employed as a UN peacekeeper in Sudan, but was visiting the UK when he was arrested.

Detectives with specialist experience of war crimes arrested Lama under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act, a law that defines torture as a ‘universal jurisdiction’ crime, meaning suspects can face trial before a British court even if their alleged offences had nothing to do with the UK.

The decade-long civil war in Nepal, in which more than 16,000 people died, ended in 2006.