Peru torture suspect held under new war crimes law

The arrest of a man in Devon for alleged crimes against humanity and torture is thought to be the first under new UK war crimes legislation.

The 46-year-old was being held at a local police station while officers searched a property and business in Tiverton, a police spokesman said.

The alleged crimes related to incidents in Peru from 1984 to 1993, he added.

Last year's law change means UK residents can be prosecuted for human rights atrocities dating back to 1991.

Until the amendment to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the law applied only to people suspected of atrocities since 2001.

Human rights group the Aegis Trust said the arrest was believed to be the first since the law change came into force last April.

Head of campaigns Nick Donovan said about 250 people suspected of being involved in genocide and war crimes were living in the UK.

"The change in the law was a very good move for the government to make - to see it being used is even better," he said.

"It sends a signal to people in the UK that if they have committed war crimes, there is a strong possibility you might be prosecuted."

The arrest was made by officers from a specialist unit within the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism command.

"A 46-year-old man was arrested at a residential address in Tiverton on 15 March on suspicion of crimes against humanity and torture," said a Met spokesman.

The Crown Prosecution Service said no prosecutions had been made since the law was changed.

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