KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Nepal‘s government summoned the British ambassador on Friday to call for the immediate release of an army colonel arrested in Britain over allegations of torture committed during a Maoist insurgency in the Himalayan nation.
Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha said British police arrested Colonel Kumar Lama, 46, on Thursday. Media reports said he was detained during a vacation from a United Nations mission in Sudan.
“We express strong objection to this mistake and urge that it be corrected … and Lama be released,” Shrestha told reporters in Kathmandu.
Rights groups accuse both the security forces and former Maoist rebels of committing abuses including torture during the decade-long conflict which killed more than 16,000 people.
The Maoists ended the conflict in 2006 under a peace deal with the government, won elections four years ago and are now heading a coalition ruling the young Himalayan republic.
Details of Lama’s alleged abuses were not immediately available.
Britain’s Metropolitan Police confirmed it had arrested a man in the southern town of St. Leonards-on-Sea on suspicion of torture allegedly committed during Nepal’s civil war.
Human Rights Watch said the arrest sent a warning to those accused of serious crimes that they cannot hide from the law forever.
“The UK’s move to arrest a Nepali army officer for torture during Nepal’s brutal civil war is an important step in enforcing the U.N. Convention against Torture,” Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)