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
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas