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.
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.
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.
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
difficult to put an exact number on it, but certainly some of those who were
arrested were tortured and disappeared,” he said.
commander Sadhuram Devkota, known by his nom-de-guerre Prashant, was among those
captured during Operation Mustang, in November 2004. Six weeks later, he was
found hanging from a low window in his cell. Officials said he had committed
protests, no independent investigation was ever carried out.
authorities helped construct a bug-proof building in the NID headquarters,
created a secure radio network for communications and supplied everything from
cameras to computers to mobile phones and night vision binoculars, according to
Bell’s sources in the Nepalese security establishment.
agency also sent a small number of British officers to Nepal, around four or
five – some tied to the embassy, others operating separately,” Bell said.
officers gave the Nepalese training in how to place bugs, how to penetrate rebel
networks and how to groom informers.
spent about a year interviewing some 20 highly-placed sources to corroborate the
details of the operation, and said a senior western official told him the
operation was cleared by Britain’s Foreign Office.
Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP: “We do not comment on intelligence matters
but, as we have repeatedly made clear, the UK does not participate in, solicit,
encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment or punishment.
no circumstances will UK personnel ever be authorised to take such action; we
neither condone such activity, nor do we ask others to do it on our behalf.
would never authorise any action in the knowledge or belief that torture would
take place at the hands of a third party.”
Nepalese general with close knowledge of the operation told Bell there was no
doubt British authorities realised that some of the arrested suspects would be
tortured and killed.
British they must have thought about human rights also, but they knew exactly
what was happening to them,” the general said. “The thing must have been
approved at a high level.”
said it was “a peculiar contradiction that while calling for an end to abuses
... the British were secretly giving very significant help in arresting targets
whom they knew were very likely to be tortured”.
covered Nepal’s civil war from 2002 to 2007, reporting for the Economist and the
South China Morning Post.
Thapa, senior researcher at the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, told AFP:
“Nepal’s army was known by 2002 to be an abusive force, responsible for ...
summary executions, torture, custodial detentions.
support such an army is tantamount to entrenching and encouraging abuse and
army spokesman Jagdish Chandra Pokharel denied all knowledge of the operation,
which apparently continued even after then-king Gyanendra seized direct control
in February 2005, prompting the British to publicly suspend all military aid to
have no idea about MI6 training the Nepal army or any Operation Mustang,”
Pokharel told AFP.
is in the (never-ending) process of drafting a new constitution, a key step in a
stalled peace process begun after the end of the civil war in