Hands over “protest note” to UK govt seeking his immediate release
KATHMANDU, Jan 5: While strongly objecting to the arrest of Nepal Army (NA) Colonel Kumar Lama, the government of Nepal has lodged a strong protest with UK government on Friday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) summoned UK Ambassador to Nepal, John Anthony Tucknott, and handed over a “protest note” to the UK Government, demanding Lama´s immediate release. The government has said the arrest of Lama without prior information to the government goes against the international law and the "general principle of the jurisdiction of a sovereign country”.
Addressing a press meet at the ministry in the afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayankaji Shrestha strongly flayed the arrest of a serving NA officer in the UK. "The arrest of a Nepali national and a Nepal Army officer serving currently in the UN mission over a crime said to have been committed in Nepal is against the principle of sovereign jurisdiction. We strongly object to the arrest," said Shrestha.
Shrestha said MoFA is saddened and surprised by the arrest of a person currently serving in the UN Peace Keeping Missions in Sudan without any grounds and prior information to the government. "Nepal government strongly objects to this," he said while asking the UK government to immediately release him and allow him to join his duty in South Sudan.
A specialist unit of the Metropolitan Police Service had arrested Colonel Lama in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex on Thursday morning on suspicion of torturing a detainee in Nepal in 2005 when he was the battalion commander in the Gorusinge Barracks in Kapilvastu during the Maoist insurgency. Lama had reached UK some two weeks ago on a leave from his duty in Sudan to meet his wife and children, who are living there for the past several years.
UK police said Colonel Lama was arrested as per the “universal jurisdiction”, which permits the UK to arrest and prosecute people accused of human rights abuses committed overseas, even if the crime is not connected to events in the UK. The arrest was made acting on a petition filed by a victim, who claimed that he was tortured at the hands of Colonel Lama in 2005.
Adding that preparations were under way to form a transitional justice mechanism in consensus with all political parties, Minister Shrestha said Nepal government is committed to safeguarding and promoting human rights by punishing the guilty involved and providing compensation to the victim concerned.
"Besides laws related to compensation against torture, army personnel guilty of such a crime are punished as per the Army Act. The act of the UK government at this critical period has hurt the sentiments of the people standing in favor of peace," he further said.
While stating that the historical responsibility of Nepali society now is to successfully conclude the ongoing peace process, Minister Shrestha lauded the support of international community, including the UK, in the peace process.
"We wish to successfully conclude the peace process and continue receiving good wishes and support from international community even in future. I want to make a special request to all concerned parties to remain cautious not to let this kind of incident to repeat in future," he added.
Acting Foreign Secretary Arjun Bahadur Thapa had handed over protest note to Ambassador Tucknott at MoFA.
"The ambassador has assured to immediately convey our protest to his government. He [the envoy] has said that he won´t be able to tell me on other things. They have claimed that Lama was arrested as per their laws. But we have made our position clear," Shrestha said.
MoFA has also directed the Nepal´s Embassy in UK to hand over the protest note to UK government seeking release of Colonel Lama. Shrestha had held a separate meeting with Home Secretary Nabin Kumar Ghimire, Defense Secretary Tilak Sharma and Chief of Army Staff Gaurab SJB Rana, among others, at MoFA before formally lodging the protest.