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Nepal army officer charged in UK with torture during 2005 civil war

A Nepalese army officer was arrested and charged in the UK on Friday with two counts of torture during his country's civil war in 2005. Colonel Kumar Lama, a 46-year-old officer currently serving in the UN mission in Sudan, was arrested [BBC report] at his East Sussex home by Metropolitan Police [official website] officers on Thursday. Lama appeared [BBC report] before Westminster Magistrates' Court Saturday. District Judge Quentin Purdy ordered Lama to remain in custody until he appears at the Old Bailey in London on January 24. The charges stem from two separate incidents that allegedly occurred between April and May 2005, in the latter years of the war, at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks in Nepal. Police were permitted to arrest Lama under section 134 [text] of the UK's Criminal Justice Act of 1988, which states that a public official may be arrested and charged with torture for intentionally inflicting severe pain or suffering on another regardless if the act was committed in the UK or elsewhere. Nepalese government officials have already expressed opposition to the arrest, claiming violations of international law and jurisdictional sovereignty.

In October the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report [text] urging justice for victims of international law violations that occurred during Nepal's civil war, a conflict that resulted in approximately 13,000 deaths [JURIST reports] and 1,500 disappearances. The report cited unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and sexual assault as some of the major offenses to have occurred during that period. In April Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Commission of Jurists [advocacy websites] urged Nepal [JURIST report] to reject blanket amnesty [press release] plans for international crimes committed during the country's civil war. In the same month, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang [official profile] spoke [JURIST report] to the Constituent Assembly of Nepal [official website] about several human rights issues in the country, including a reluctance to prosecute war crimes and insufficient progress increasing women's rights [texts, PDF]. On several previous occasions, the OHCHR and HRW [JURIST reports] have both appealed to the government of Nepal to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed during the civil war.

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