After five decades of negotiations, Nepal and India have finally agreed to sign an extradition treaty. The two South Asian countries reached an understanding to hand over the accused person(s), upon request, in the 1950s. The agreement was updated in 1989. The current treaty in the offing will be the revision of the 1989 agreement.
The draft of the new law facilitates the deportation of third-country nationals. The provision was absent in the earlier India-Nepal Extradition Treaty, and is something New Delhi has been pitching for in a bid to add more teeth to the law.
It’s not only India that is willing to sign such a treaty with Nepal. Pakistan and the European country France are also seeking to reach an agreement with the Himalayan nation regarding extradition.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani offered to discuss extradition treaty during his meeting with Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, in Kathmandu last April, while on route to the 16th SAARC Summit in Bhutan. An extradition treaty with France was highlighted when Charles Sobhraj, known as the bikini killer, was arrested in Kathmandu in 2003. The French national was convicted of murdering a US backpacker in the Kathmandu Valley in 1975. He is also linked to a series of gruesome murders across Asia.
Is this the limit of extradition treaty of Nepal? ‘No,’ says Prime Minister Nepal’s foreign affairs adviser Rajan Bhattarai. The treaty should be greater in scope. What about an extradition treaty between Nepal and the USA, where thousands of Nepali youths are living—either as students, professionals or by other means?
“We have not had any treaty with any of the countries up to now. India has been pushing for long time, China has also expressed its willingness…Malaysia, Pakistan, France, US, [and] Bangladesh have a desire to sign the treaty with Nepal,” Bhattarai told eKantipur.
With the USA
The treaty was demanded in the US when a Nepali student, Sajan Timalsina, 26, fled the country after killing three teenagers in Texas.
According to police reports, Timalsina, was driving his car in Houston when he ran a red light and broadsided a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), which then hit utility poll on July 9. The SUV was carrying five teenagers and two adults.
Avianca Cortez and Detrihanna Davis, both 13-year-old, and a 17-year-old RaShaunda Raleigh were immediately ejected from the SUV. They were pronounced dead within hours. The other two teens and two adults in the vehicle survived.
Local police later said that they had enough evidence to hold Timalsina overnight. They released him that night after conducting a standard field sobriety test. It was not thought that he would flee and they wanted to get the blood test results back for his alcohol level before they pressed charges.
When, police said, they discovered that his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit, they went to charge him with three counts of intoxication manslaughter only to find that he had left the country.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Bennisha Davis one of the survivors of the accident, took her own life in August. Bennisha was afraid that the man charged with the three deaths would never be caught. She left behind a note saying she just wanted to be with her friends.
The impact of the tragic deaths from the automobile acciednt has widened with the suicide and the treaty was demanded in the U.S. The U.S. has no formal extradition treaty with Nepal, but Timalsina could be detained if he ever travels to a country that does have an extradition treaty.
U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has publicly brought pressure on the U.S. Justice Department to bring Timalsina back to Houston. The Houston Democrat said the department could negotiate for his surrender.
Nepal is among the 67 countries with the US that has diplomatic relations but no extradition treaty. The US has extradition treaties with over 100 other countries.
Is Timalsina in Nepal?
It’s difficult to say with certainty. Hiding in Nepal is not possible. However, he can take safe haven in other countries like India, where Nepali nationals do not need proper documents to go, making hiding possible. If he is in India, getting hold of him is easier said than done. It is worth mentioning that the US and India signed an extradition treaty in June 1997. If Timalsina is caught in India then he can be extradited via Nepal.
According to Bhattarai, without reaching some sort of understanding among the major political parties in the country, the Nepal government does not want to advance the extradition issue even with India.
It is high time that Nepal thinks about an extradition treaty beyond India, Pakistan and France.
(Koirala, a senior sub-editor of Kantipur Daily, Currently in the USA)
Posted on ekantipur.com on 2010 October 17