Exclusive: Death squads suspect held under new UK legislation

Have your say

A MAN has been arrested for alleged crimes against humanity – the first under new legislation aimed at capturing UK residents suspected of human rights atrocities, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

The Peruvian man, who has not been named, was arrested in Devon yesterday on suspicion of involvement in state-backed death squads which targeted guerilla movements, mainly the notorious Shining Path.

He is the first person to be arrested since a change in the law last year which extended the retrospective reach of UK authorities to prosecute for war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide back to 1991 from the previous cut-off point of 2001.

The law change was primarily brought in to cover the actions of anyone who had become a UK resident after being involved in atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

The arrest comes after a Yorkshire Post investigation revealed hundreds of suspected war criminals from an array of countries round the world are living in the UK with apparent impunity.

Information obtained from the Home Office revealed 300 suspects identified by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) between 2005 and 2010 remain in the country despite concerns being highlighted during the immigration screening process.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “A 46-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of torture and crimes against humanity and has been detained at Exeter police station to be interviewed.

“These matters relate to incidents which occurred in Peru between 1989 and 1993. From initial inquiries, this man may have participated in the murder of numerous individuals during that period.”

It is understood the number of alleged killings is more than 100.

A brutal civil conflict in Peru led to the death or disappearance of 70,000 people between 1980 and 2000. Around half were estimated to be the responsibility of Shining Path and a third down to government security forces.

It is understood the police inquiry follows information passed on by the UKBA War Crimes Unit. It is believed the suspect had been granted asylum in the UK.

A domestic and business address in Devon were also searched yesterday by the Met’s counter-terrorism unit, which deals with war crimes investigations.

A lack of prosecutions and arrests, plus the apparent inability to take effective immigration action, has prompted concern the UK has become a safe haven for suspected war criminals.

Nick Donovan, from the Aegis Trust which led the campaign to change the law, said “Before the recent change in UK law many of the dozens of British residents suspected of crimes against humanity couldn’t be prosecuted for crimes committed in the 1990s.

“It’s great to see the new law being used already. Obviously this man is innocent until proven guilty, but if this arrest leads to a successful prosecution it will be a great day for the families of the victims.

“All credit is due to the police for their pro-active stance towards suspected war criminals found in the UK.”