A former colonel in the Nepalese army has been arrested by Scotland Yard anti-terrorist officers over claims that he tortured a suspected Maoist during the country’s long-running civil war.
The 46-year-old man was arrested in the seaside town of St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, this morning. He was questioned at a police station while the home was searched, police said.
His alleged victim claimed to have been tortured in 2005, the year when Nepal’s king imposed a brutally-enforced emergency law in a failed attempt to quash a Maoist rebellion against his rule. King Gyanendra was stripped of his powers the following year to end 10-years of civil war in which thousands of people were killed and thousands more injured and tortured. A republic was declared in 2008.
Solicitors for the victim said that the alleged torturer had been given British citizenship. “I am delighted and relieved to hear that finally the officer who was involved in torturing me has been arrested,” said the victim, who has not been named, in a statement issued by his solicitor. “I trust that the British system will deliver justice; something I was not able to get in my own country.”
The colonel, who has also not been named, was arrested under section 134 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, which makes torture by a public official an offence wherever it is committed in the world.
Only one person has been convicted of torture under the law since it was introduced. Farayadi Sawar Zardad was convicted in July 2005 of conspiracy to commit torture and take hostages in Afghanistan between 1991 and 1996.
Torture is not a crime in Nepal despite repeated government promises and campaigns by rights groups. Victims can only claim small sums in compensation and a court can recommend disciplinary charges for military torturers.
The UN recorded more than 2,500 cases of torture during the conflict. “Torture, mutilation, and other sorts of cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment appear to have been perpetrated extensively during the conflict, according to available data, by both the security forces and the Maoists,” the UN said in a report last year.
Kate Maynard, the complainant’s solicitor, said: “This firm has worked very hard on a number of these cases and it is a source of great satisfaction to know that the UK takes seriously its international obligation to investigate and where appropriate to prosecute alleged crimes of this nature”.