Nepal lacks law criminalising terrorism, says US

Tribhuvan International Airport lacks baggage screening technology

Kathmandu, July 20

Throughout 2016, domestic political unrest continued to plague Nepal as members of the Madhesi community from the Tarai region agitated for amendments to the constitution, said the US Department of State in its annual report.

According to Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 released yesterday, some participants of the former Maoist insurgency remained outside of the political process and occasionally used violence or threats to meet their objectives. Neither the ethnic protestors in the Tarai nor the Maoist splinter groups have any known links to international terrorist groups.

“In June, a splinter Maoist group led by Netra Bikram Chand used crude incendiary devices to destroy cell phone towers in several districts and to attack offices of two international non-governmental organisations in Sindhupalchowk and Nuwakot districts. In September, another Maoist splinter group was suspected of planting crude improvised explosive devices at a number of schools in Kathmandu Valley,” said the report.

It said Nepal lacked a law specifically criminalising terrorism or the provision of material support to terrorist networks. If an act of terrorism were to take place, Nepali courts would likely prosecute the perpetrators on the basis of laws pertaining to its constituent crimes such as murder and arson, among others. Most Nepali officials view Nepal as at low-risk for an international terrorist incident. Accordingly, there is little impetus to introduce new laws.

“A serious international terrorist event inside Nepal targeting foreigners would pose new and serious challenges for Nepal Police and the justice sector and would strain the country’s investigative and judicial capacities. Under the current legal regime, a terrorist attack would likely be charged under its constituent crimes, such as murder or arson, while Nepal’s anti‑money laundering statute would encompass financial support for the offence,” read the report.

The report said Nepal has limited experience with countering and investigating transnational crime, performing formal mutual legal assistance, and handling extradition requests. While Nepal has specialised units to investigate and respond to terrorist incidents, law enforcement units have limited capacity to effectively detect, deter, or identify terrorist suspects. An open border with India and relatively weak airport security present vulnerabilities.

“Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport lacks state of the art baggage screening technology and relies on physical pat-downs and metal detectors for passenger screening. Weak controls restricting access of airport employees are present throughout the facility, and initial and recurrent background checks on employees may not be rigorous,” it said.

Nepal is taking steps to bring its legislation into compliance with international standards, but corruption, a large and open border, limited financial sector regulations, a large informal economy, and a lack of resources and capacity continue to hamper efforts to counter illicit financial flows.

The Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank of Nepal, licenses and monitors money services businesses (MSBs) that receive remittances. MSBs in Nepal may receive inbound remittances, but funds must be distributed to recipients through banks, which are required to collect data on the originator. The government has limited ability to determine whether the source of money sent as remittances from abroad is licit or illicit, and has difficulty investigating informal money transfer systems such as hundi and hawala.