3 UK relief helicopters not allowed into Nepal as retaliation for prosecution of Nepalese Army officer

The report today is that 3 RAF Chinook helicopters, which were sent by the UK as part of the earthquake relief effort, have now returned after spending a week grounded in Delhi and never having even entered Nepal. The undertone in all the British reports is that this was an inexplicable and callous act of an incompetent Nepalese government.

But of course, there is more to the story than that and the roots lie in the Nepalese Army and its efforts against the Maoist terrorists in late 1990s and early 2000s. During the height of the conflict the UK intelligence services assisted the government but some retired British Army officers are known to have advised and helped the Maoist terrorists. Then in 2013 a Nepalese Army officer, Colonel Kumar Lama, was charged by the UK in London for torture against Maoist prisoners under the UN’s conventions.

Why Colonel Lama was singled out by the UK for prosecution was partly due to the fact that he had settled in “St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex, with his family. He had been serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan shortly before being detained”. But it was also because the British Army officers – all now retired – who had helped the Maoists and some so-called human rights groups were either instigating or assisting the prosecution. Some of the Maoist leaders are now within the normal political process.

The bottom line is that the Nepalese government declined to accept the 3 RAF Chinook helicopters because of the prosecution – perceived as being totally unjustified – of Colonel Lama and the history of British mercenaries in helping the Maoist rebels. The UK has also been accused of assisting the government of the time against the Maoists and to have been complicit in some of the torture – which no doubt took place. But making Colonel Lama the scapegoat by mounting a prosecution in London has irritated the Nepalese government intensely.

The two decades of conflict was marked by abuse by both sides:

S Singh et al, Nepal’s war on human rightsInt J Equity Health. 2005; 4: 9.

…, both the Maoist rebels and the Royal Nepalese Army are engaged in regular intimidation and extortion leading to a climate of intense fear in Nepal. The government forces have resorted to large-scale arbitrary arrests, detentions, “disappearances”, extra judicial executions and torture including rape. Human rights defenders, including lawyers; journalists and members of NGO’s have been arrested, tortured, killed or “disappeared” in Nepal. Nepal held the unique distinction for the highest number of “disappearances” of any country in 2003 and 2004. The Maoists have resorted to torture and deliberate and unlawful killings. According to INSEC (Informal Sector Service Centre), a human rights organisation, nearly 3000 people were killed and about 26,000 people were abducted in 2004 in Nepal. The Maoists have abducted civilians, including teachers and schoolchildren for the purpose of ‘political indoctrination’. 

Sources:

BBCThree RAF Chinook helicopters sent to Nepal to help the aid effort in the country are to return to the UK having not been used, the government has said. The CH47 Chinooks left the UK two weeks ago to help transport “life-saving aid supplies” and reach stranded victims “in desperate need” of help.

But the helicopters have been grounded in Delhi, in India, for the past week. The Ministry of Defence said it was “disappointed”, saying the decision had been made by the Nepalese government. An MoD spokesman said the Nepalese government, while thanking the UK for the offer, had said the helicopters will not take part in the relief effort.

The GuardianA Nepalese army officer has gone on trial at the Old Bailey accused of torturing two alleged Maoist rebels in his homeland 10 years ago. The prosecution of Lieutenant Colonel Kumar Lama, 47, was brought before a London court because of the UK’s obligations under the UN convention against torture to bring suspects to justice wherever they are detained. Torture, like war crimes, is subject to universal jurisdiction, allowing those who allegedly committed crimes abroad to be tried in Britain.

Lama was arrested in 2013 after settling in St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex, with his family. He had been had been serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan shortly before being detained. Charged with presiding over the torture of two men – Janak Raut and Karam Hussain – while in charge of Gorusinghe barracks in Kapilvastu in 2005, Lama denies both counts of inflicting severe pain or suffering.

The prosecution has been brought under section 134 (sub-section 1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The colonel has indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Opening the case, prosecutor Bobbie Cheema QC said: “The authorities in this country have an obligation in cases where torture is alleged to have been committed if the alleged perpetrators are found within England. “This commitment to prosecute alleged torturers even if the torture happened in an entirely different country and continent is sometimes called the principle of providing no safe haven for torturers.”

Southasia.comAnnapurna Dainik, a Nepali-language newspaper, has claimed the government took the ‘informal decision’ of not allowing the three Chinook helicopters to enter the Nepali airspace because of the arrest and prosecution of Nepalese Army’s Colonel Kumar Lama as well as for the relationship that existed between a senior British Army officer (now retired) and the Maoist guerrillas while they were still in war with the state. …

….. The Royal Air Force flew the helicopters in a transporter aircraft on April 30. It is understood they were originally planned to be flown straight to Kathmandu for reassembly but the aircraft carrying them was diverted to New Delhi when the Tribhuvan International Airport became clogged with relief flights due to the limited number of runways.

The GuardianBritish authorities have been accused of funding a four-year intelligence operation in Nepal that led to Maoist rebels being arrested, tortured and killed during the country’s civil war.

Thomas Bell, the author of a new book on the conflict, says MI6 funded safe houses and provided training in surveillance and counter-insurgency tactics to Nepal’s army and spy agency, the National Investigation Department (NID) under “Operation Mustang”, launched in 2002.

Nepal’s decade-long civil war left more than 16,000 dead, with rebels and security forces accused of serious human rights violations including killings, rapes, torture and disappearances.

“According to senior Nepalese intelligence and army officials involved in the operation, British aid greatly strengthened their performance and led to about 100 arrests,” said Bell, whose book Kathmandu is released in south Asia on Thursday. “It’s difficult to put an exact number on it, but certainly some of those who were arrested were tortured and disappeared,” he said.

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