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PM asks Cameron to free Col Lama

KATHMANDU, JAN 17 - Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai dispatched a letter on Thursday to his British counterpart David Cameron requesting the immediate release of Nepal Army Col Kumar Lama, who is in British police custody.

Col Lama was arrested by British authorities over his alleged involvement in torture during the decade-long Maoist insurgency in the first week of January in London and remanded in judicial custody until January 24.

The letter, which carries PM Bhattarai’s signature, also requested that the British PM make necessary arrangements for Lama to resume his work at the UN Mission in South Sudan where he was deployed before his arrest.

Thursday’s Cabinet meeting approved the content of the letter, which had already been dispatched to the Nepali Embassy in London. A copy of the letter will also be sent to the British Embassy in Kathmandu. Nepali Ambassador to the UK Suresh Chandra Chalise was instructed to submit the letter to the British PM’s office.

“We have decided to make all necessary diplomatic efforts to release Lama,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha. “We have also decided to bear all the expenses incurred if he is released on bail and to hire a barrister in London to defend Col Lama.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sought between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds sterling from the Ministry of Finance for expenses in hiring a barrister and Lama’s bail.

The letter was jointly prepared by Shrestha, Chief Secretary Lila Mani Poudel, Attorney General Mukti Pradhan and acting Army Chief Nepal Bhusan Chand. In the letter, PM Bhattarai argues that Col Lama’s arrest is against the Convention Against Torture as Lama was already punished by the Nepal Army by holding back promotions for a year. The letter also elaborates on the status of Nepal’s historic peace process “which will soon be accomplished”.

“At this crucial juncture, where Nepal is working to complete the peace process, Lama’s arrest could have serious repercussions,” the letter says, according to senior government officials. The PM also stresses the historic ties between Nepal and the UK and the latter’s assistance and support for Nepal’s peace process.

In the letter, Bhattarai makes commitment to amending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) if any shortcomings are detected. “The TRC is an inseparable part of Nepal’s ongoing peace process and if we feel that Col Lama should be punished again, we will not hesitate to take action against him,” the letter says.

The PM raises questions on the British authorities’ selection of Lama’s case from among the many incidents of human rights violations that took place during the Maoist insurgency and committed by both state and rebel forces. Based on these grounds, the PM requests his British counterpart to release Lama at the earliest and also arrange for the colonel’s family to meet him.

Meanwhile, government officials prepared a position paper on Nepal’s ongoing peace process and what the government was currently doing to fulfil its obligations regarding transitional justice mechanisms. On the basis of the paper, which will be circulated to all the 32 Nepali missions aboard, Nepali diplomats have been instructed to defend Nepal’s human rights record and attempt to persuade the international community of the same, said sources. The position paper elaborates on the government’s take of Col Lama’s arrest, Nepal’s ‘unflinching commitment’ to human rights, to transitional justice mechanisms, including the TRC, and to addressing war-time cases of human rights violations.

Meanwhile, in London, Ambassador Chalise met Col Lama in police custody on Thursday. Chalise reportedly told Lama that the Nepal government was defending his case, in response to Lama’s concern over what sort of legal actions were initiated in his defence.

Posted on: 2013-01-18 09:08

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