Britain and Nepal were on Saturday embroiled in a diplomatic row after a serving Nepalese army officer was arrested while on a holiday here, and charged with torture for his role in dealing with anti-government rebels in 2005.

The Nepalese government lodged a strong protest describing the arrest of Colonel Kumar Lama, currently serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in Sudan, as a breach of international law and demanded his release.

The British ambassador in Kathmandu was summoned to the Nepalese foreign office for an explanation.

Col. Lama was produced before Westminster Magistrates court and remanded in custody until January 24.

Col. Lama (48) has been charged with intentionally “inflicting severe pain or suffering” on two men — Janak Bahadur Raut and Karam Hussain — in connection with two separate incidents that occurred between April and October 2005 at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks in Kapilvastu.

Scotland Yard said Col. Lama was arrested at a residential address, believed to be his family home, in east Sussex — about 70 km from London — under Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act, which defines torture as a “universal jurisdiction” crime. This meant that he could face a trial in Britain even if the alleged offence was committed in another country.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha said: “The arrest of Lama…without informing the concerned government and without any evidence, is against the general principle of international law and jurisdiction of a sovereign country. We express strong objection to this mistake and urge that it be corrected... and Lama be released.”

Human Rights Watch called the arrest an “important step in enforcing the U.N. Convention against Torture”.

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