LONDON — British police said Friday they have charged a serving colonel in the Nepalese army with two counts of torture allegedly committed during the Himalayan nation’s civil war. The case has touched off a diplomatic spat, with the Nepalese government summoning the U.K. ambassador in Kathmandu to protest.
Kumar Lama, 46, was arrested Thursday at a residential address in the English town of St. Leonards-on-Sea, about 70 miles southeast of London. Lama was charged Friday with intentionally “inflicting severe pain or suffering” on two separate individuals as a public official — or person acting in official capacity.
Britain’s Metropolitan Police said the charges relate to one incident that allegedly occurred between April 15 and May 1, 2005, and another that allegedly occurred between April 15 and Oct. 31, 2005, at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks in Nepal. Lama is due to appear at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday, police added.
British authorities claim “universal jurisdiction” over serious offenses such as war crimes, torture, and hostage-taking, meaning such crimes can be prosecuted in Britain regardless of where they occurred.
Scotland Yard has said that the arrest did not take place at the request of Nepalese authorities. Britain’s Press Association reported that Nepalese officials said Lama is serving as a military observer under the United Nations Mission in southern Sudan and was on vacation in London.
Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed that Nepal’s government summoned the U.K. ambassador in Kathmandu because it was upset over the arrest, but declined to comment further.
Thousands died and thousands more were injured or tortured during Nepal’s civil war, a decade-long conflict that ended in 2006.