Nepal army arrest cues UN inquest


Mon, Jan 07, 2013 - Page 5

The UN is to investigate Nepal’s vetting process for UN peacekeepers after a Nepalese army officer working for the organization was arrested on suspicion of torture, a report said yesterday.

Colonel Kumar Lama, a peacekeeper in South Sudan, is accused of committing the crimes in Nepal during the Himalayan nation’s civil war in 2005 and was arrested in the UK last week.

“The onus is on the contributing member state to ensure these experts have no relevant convictions or judicial or other disciplinary procedures pending, or pending allegations of serious human rights violations,” UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations [DPKO] spokesman Kieran Dwyer said, according to the Kathmandu Post.

“The government of Nepal is responsible for this vetting. The DPKO is following up this matter with the government of Nepal,” he said.

Lama, 46, appeared in a London court on Saturday charged with inflicting severe pain or suffering on two men when he was in charge of a barracks during the 10-year Maoist insurgency, and was remanded in custody.

His arrest on Thursday at St Leonards-on-Sea in England sparked a formal protest by the Nepalese government to the British ambassador in Kathmandu and a demand for his release.

The father-of-two, who has indefinite leave to remain in Britain, spent a Christmas break in England with his family and was due to return to South Sudan on Saturday.

Lama, who has previously served as a UN peacekeeper in Sierra Leone and Lebanon, was arrested under British law, which allows prosecutors to act against people suspected of torture, no matter where it took place in the world.

“He is a qualified military official and was selected for the UN mission. There are no outstanding charges of human rights violations against him,” Nepal Army spokesman Suresh Sharma said.