British court detains Nepali colonel accused of torture

A Nepali army colonel was remanded in custody by a British court on Saturday after being charged with torturing two individuals at a military barracks during the Himalayan nation’s decade-long civil war.

British police arrested Kumar Lama in southern England on Thursday, provoking a diplomatic row with Nepal which demanded his immediate release and summoned the British ambassador in Kathmandu to express its “strong objection” to the detention.

Lama, 46, spoke only to confirm his identity when he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London, the Press Association reported.

District Judge Quentin Purdy refused bail and ordered Lama to remain in detention until a hearing at a higher court in London on January 24.

Rights groups accuse both the security forces and former Maoist rebels of committing abuses including torture during the conflict that 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.

Lama is currently serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in South Sudan and had been due to return to Africa on Saturday after spending Christmas in East Sussex, southern England, the court heard.

He is charged with intentionally inflicting “severe pain or suffering” on Janak Bahadur Raut and Karam Hussain at an army barracks in Kapilvastu in Nepal in 2005.

Lama, who has served in the Nepalese Army since 1984, was in charge of the barracks at the time, the court was told.

British legislation outlawing the use of torture has international application and is not limited to acts conducted in Britain.

( Reuters News Wire, Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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