UK court acquits Colonel Lama

Published On: September 6, 2016 10:15 PM NPT By: Chiran Sharma  | @chiranuk

The jury decided that there was insufficient evidence for them to be satisfied of Lama's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

LONDON, Sept 7: A British court on Tuesday acquitted Nepal Army Colonel Kumar Lama, who was arrested in the United Kingdom more than three years ago under universal jurisdiction on a charge of torture.

The Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey terminated the criminal proceedings against Lama in the case related to torturing Janak Raut in Nepal in 2005. The court accepted that it will not proceed to a re-trial following a jury failing to reach a verdict in August.

Lama was given clean chit by a jury last month in another case involing the torture of another Nepali Karim Husain but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of torturing Raut. The jury decided that there was insufficient evidence for them to be satisfied of Lama's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court decision has paved way for Colonel Lama to return to Nepal. "Ultimately, justice has prevailed," Lama told Republica but refused to make further comments without taking consent of the Nepal Army. 

Husain and Raut had filed complaints in the UK claiming that they were subjected to repeated beatings and electric shocks at Gorusinghe Barracks in Nepal in 2005 during the Maoist insurgency, when Lama was the chief of the barracks. Lama was accused of directing the soldiers responsible for the torture.

Lama was arrested by London Metropolitan Police on January 3, 2013 as he arrived in Britain for a vacation to meet his family living in London while serving the United Nation Peace Keeping Mission in South Sudan. 

Following the verdict, both Hickman & Rose Solicitors and Advocacy Forum, of which Raut was a client, issued press release and said that Raut expressed disappointment at the outcome but said he would respect the decision of the jury.

“I was forced to shout for help outside the country because I had no possibility to bring my alleged torturer to justice here in Nepal," the statement quoted Raut.

"Since Lama was arrested in the UK, the Government of Nepal has been advocating that Nepal will prosecute him and others involved in serious human rights violations. The result of the case provides another opportunity for the Government of Nepal to create the right legal framework for other suspects to face justice," Raut was quoted further.

Mandira Sharma, the founder of Advocacy Forum, the Nepali NGO which helped Raut to internationalize the case, has said that regardless of the decision, the case has already established that the door of universal jurisdiction for the victims of torture and other gross violations is open in the UK and beyond.

"I just hope the Government of Nepal understands the gravity of the issue at hand and starts a process to end impunity for torture and gross violations of human rights in Nepal," the press release quoted Sharma ahead.

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