LONDON – A British court on Saturday denied bail to a colonel in the Nepalese army facing charges of torture allegedly committed during the Himalayan nation's civil war.
Kumar Lama, 46, was arrested Thursday at a residential address in the English town of St. Leonards-on-Sea, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of London. He was later charged with intentionally "inflicting severe pain or suffering" on two individuals as a public official — or person acting in official capacity.
Britain's Metropolitan Police said the charges relate to one incident that allegedly occurred between April 15 and May 1, 2005, and another that allegedly occurred between April 15 and Oct. 31, 2005 at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks in Nepal. Scotland Yard has said that the arrest did not take place at the request of Nepalese authorities.
British authorities claim "universal jurisdiction" over serious offenses such as war crimes, torture, and hostage-taking, meaning such crimes can be prosecuted in Britain regardless of where they occurred.
Lama spoke only to confirm his identity when he appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Saturday. Two diplomats from the Nepalese embassy were in court for the short hearing, according to Britain's Press Association news agency.
The court heard that Lama has served in the Nepalese Army since 1984 and was in charge of the barracks at the time of the alleged offenses. The colonel is currently serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in South Sudan, having previously served in Sierra Leone and Lebanon, and he was due to return to Africa on Saturday after spending Christmas in England.
The case has touched off a diplomatic spat, with the Nepalese government summoning the U.K. ambassador in Kathmandu to protest. Britain's Foreign Office confirmed on Friday that Nepal's government summoned the U.K. ambassador in Kathmandu because it was upset over the arrest, but declined to comment further.
Thousands of people died and thousands were injured or tortured during Nepal's civil war, a decade-long conflict that ended in 2006.
Judge Quentin Purdy remanded Lama in custody pending a Jan. 24 court date.