Nepal arrest a warning to rights abusers

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 04, 2013 07:50 hrs

London, Jan 4 (IANS) The arrest in Britain of a Nepali colonel suspected of torture is a warning to those accused of serious crimes in Nepal and elsewhere that they cannot hide from the law forever, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

Nepal failed to prosecute anyone for torture during the decade-long civil war in the nearly seven years since it ended.

The army officer, who has not yet been named and is reportedly a British resident, is alleged to have committed serious human rights violations during Nepal's internal conflict between Maoist combatants and government forces, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

The conflict, in which 13,000 people died, ended with a peace agreement in 2006.

The officer was arrested Thursday by London Metropolitan Police under section 134 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.

Britain passed the law to meet its obligations under the Convention against Torture to prosecute anyone on its territory responsible for torture anywhere in the world.

"The UK's move to arrest a Nepali army officer for torture during Nepal's brutal civil war is an important step in enforcing the UN Convention against Torture," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Those responsible for committing torture in Nepal can no longer assume they are beyond the reach of the law in other countries."

Nepal authorities have failed to file a single prosecution in civilian courts concerning war crimes, including torture, despite numerous cases in which evidence has been presented by victims, their families, and national and international organisations.

Although torture is not a specific crime in Nepal, the Nepali government is bound by international law to ensure that serious international crimes such as torture are investigated and those responsible are prosecuted.

The failure to prosecute these cases also contradicts the Nepal government's public pronouncements about delivering justice for wartime atrocities and orders of the Nepali Supreme Court to investigate and prosecute wartime abuse cases.

Several people alleged to be responsible for these abuses from both the Nepali security forces and the former Maoist insurgents have been promoted, some to positions in which they can directly interfere in criminal investigations.

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