British court acquits Nepal army colonel of torture charge during insurgency

The move may apply some balm in the strained bilateral relations between UK and Nepal

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Kathmandu | Published:September 7, 2016 1:37 pm
kumar lama, nepal, nepal UK relations, kumar lama release, nepal army colonel, kumar lama freed, kumar lama detention, kumar lama jailed Col Kumar Lama (Reuters photo)

A British court has freed a Nepali army officer after four years that may apply some balm in the strained bilateral relations between the two countries.

Col. Kumar Lama was arrested in January 2013 and tried by the British authorities invoking its worldwide jurisdiction in human rights violation cases. He was accused of torturing two people in detention in Nepal during the Maoist-led insurgency more than a decade ago.

A crown court recently found that there was no sufficient ground to declare Col Lama guilty and decided not to pursue the case further. Col. Lama was on deputation to the United Nations in South Sudan and was arrested in UK where he had gone to join his family following a complaint lodged by Advocacy Forum, a human rights NGO largely funded by western donors.

The British authorities had repeatedly turned down Col Lama’s immunity claims and subsequent appeals from Nepalese authorities including the chief of the army staff for his repatriation to Nepal. Kamal Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister in the erstwhile KP Oli government, had approached the British government formally twice last year for his release.

In fact, Col Lama’s arrest and Nepal government’s questioning of the jurisdiction of Britain came as a major irritant in the Nepal-UK relations that marked 200th year in 2015. Prince Harry also visited Nepal on the occasion.

The delayed justice and freedom came to Lama at a cost of about one million pounds sterling as court expenses, two years in prison and another two years imposed stay in UK with instructions not to leave the country.