Peruvian 'war criminal' found in Tiverton

Campaigners for a law change making it harder for war criminals to use Britain as a safe haven were yesterday celebrating the first arrest made under the new legislation.

The arrest was of a 46-year-old man living in Tiverton, Devon, who is suspected of involvement in death squads which operated in Peru as a state-backed initiative to target guerrilla groups, especially the Shining Path.

His detention was made possible by a change in the law last year which extended the historical cut-off point – from 2001 to 1991 – for prosecuting someone for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.

The civil conflict in Peru, the worst of which took place during the 1980s and 1990s, was brutal and led to the death or disappearance of 70,000 people. Shining Path, the Maoist revolutionary group trying to take over the country, was notorious for the level of violence it employed but so were the government-backed death squads.

Officers from the anti-terrorist squad arrested the man, who is suspected of involvement in more than 100 killings, and searched a home and a business address as part of the investigation.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "MPS officers arrested a 46-year-old man at a residential address in Tiverton, Devon, on suspicion of crimes against humanity and torture.

"He was taken to a police station in Devon. He has now been bailed to return to a central London police station in July. Searches were carried out at a residential address and a business premises in Tiverton. They are now complete."

Last year's change in the law, introduced in the Coroners and Justice Act, was followed a campaign by the Aegis Trust to close a loophole that it said had allowed dozens of genocide and war crimes suspects to live in the UK with impunity. Nick Donovan, from the Trust, said after learning of the police raid: "It's great to see the new law being used already. Obviously this man is innocent until proven guilty, but if this arrest leads to a successful prosecution it will be a great day for the families of the victims."

The law change was intended primarily to allow people involved in war crimes and genocide in Rwanda and the Balkans to be brought to justice.

Tracked down

* Celestin Ugirashebuja was a mayor in the Kigoma district of Rwanda in the 1990s and is suspected of organising roadblocks and urging Hutus to kill Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. In 2006 he was arrested at his home in Essex with three other men. They were alleged to have been involved in the genocide but in 2009 attempts to extradict them collapsed when the High Court ruled there was a serious risk they would not get a fair trial in Rwanda.

* In 1995 Szymon Serafinowicz became the first man to be arrested in the UK on war crimes charges after police arrived at his home in Banstead, Surrey. The next year he was committed for trial. The 85-year-old was a suspected Nazi war criminal, and was charged with the murders of three Jews while he was a police chief in his native Belarus in 1941 and 1942 after the German invasion. In 1997 he was ruled unfit for trial on the grounds of his dementia, and died shortly afterwards.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent