Nepal col facing torture charges in UK pleads for immunity

A Nepalese Army officer accused of committing torture during his country`s civil war in 2005, has pleaded for immunity in a London court.

Updated: Jun 05, 2013, 09:10 AM IST

London: A Nepalese Army officer accused of committing torture during his country`s civil war in 2005, on Tuesday pleaded for immunity in a London court.

Kumar Lama is accused of torturing two men when he was in-charge of a barrack in Nepal at the height of the Himalayan nation`s decade-long conflict between Maoist rebels and government forces.
Appearing at the Old Bailey in London, England`s central criminal court, Lama`s lawyer said the colonel`s current work as a military observer for the United Nations in South Sudan meant he should enjoy immunity from prosecution in Britain.

"He is a UN expert and is entitled to immunity," defence barrister James Lewis said, adding that prosecutors agreed that the alleged offences, if proven, were carried out "in an official capacity" and thus, Lama should possibly also enjoy immunity on this basis.

The offences are thought to have taken place between April and May 2005 and April and October 2005 at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks in Kapilvastu, Nepal.

The 46-year-old colonel was arrested in England from his East Sussex home in January, sparking a diplomatic row between Britain and Nepal, which had condemned the move to prosecute him there.

Lama faces trial in Britain under a law that allows prosecution of alleged war criminals.

His barrister told the court that Nepalese Prime Minister, Khilraj Regmi, had written to his British counterpart David Cameron to protest that under international law Britain should have given Nepal the opportunity to extradite Lama.

"It simply wasn`t done in this case. That is the complaint that was made by the Prime Minister of Nepal," Lewis told the court.

But British prosecutors argue that Lama cannot be granted immunity if accused of torture, which they say is an international crime.

Lama has already been convicted in Nepal of one of the two charges he faces in Britain, and was punished with a ban on being promoted for a year, the court heard.