Torture Trial in the UK: ICJ paper explains case against Nepalese Colonel Lama

In a briefing paper published today, the ICJ explained the legal issues and political context of the case against Colonel Kumar Lama, a Nepali Army officer.

Earlier this month, Colonel Lama’s trial on allegations of torture of two Nepali detainees in 2005 resumed in the United Kingdom.

“This case is one of the all too rare occasions when the principle of universal jurisdiction has been applied in judicial procedures in the UK, if not the world over,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “The decision will have far reaching implications, not only for the victims in this case but for all victims of torture and other serious abuses around the world seeking justice.”

In January 2013, the UK exercised a form of “universal jurisdiction” to charge Colonel Lama on two counts of committing torture under Section 134(1) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1988.

The charges are based on allegations that Colonel Lama was involved in the torture of two Nepali detainees in 2005, at the height of Nepal’s decade-long internal armed conflict. Colonel Lama’s trial began in February 2015 in London. After a few weeks, however, the trial was adjourned because there were problems with interpretation in court. The trial began afresh earlier this month.

The briefing paper addresses questions around the charges against Colonel Lama; the political context in Nepal when the acts of torture allegedly happened; the principle of “universal jurisdiction”; and procedural questions around such trials in the UK.

“The case comes at a time when an agreement between the ruling parties in Nepal is threatening to entrench impunity for those who planned and carried out unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, and other serious crimes in Nepal’s civil war,” added Zarifi.

“It is an important and long overdue opportunity to challenge the systemic impunity for conflict-era human rights abuses in Nepal.”


Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director, t: +66-807-819-002; e: sam.zarifi(a)

Nepal-Lama Q&A-Advocacy-2016-ENG (full paper in PDF)


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