Along with an increase in the number of foreigners in Nepal´s prisons, drug smugglers have come to dominate these spaces, lending credence to a claim that this country is emerging as a transit point for international drug traffickers.
According to the Department of Prison Development under the Ministry of Home Affairs, the number of foreigners in Nepali jails in drug-related cases is 371 as of now, including convicts and those still undergoing trials. And of this total, 254 are serving time for drug smuggling and the rest are in the trial process.
According to Sashi Shekhar Shrestha, director general at the Department of Prison Management, Kalikasthan, although the increase in the number of foreigners in Nepali prisons is not remarkable, it can´t be denied that Nepal is emerging as a hub for international drug traffickers.
According to the department, more than 16,989 inmates are serving terms in different prisons, including about 1,100 foreign nationals. A majority of them are in the three prisons in Kathmandu Valley. The other foreign inmates are serving terms for financial, passport and other kinds of fraud, gold smuggling and crimes related to wildlife.
Central Jail at Jagannathdebal contains 41 foreign convicts and 47 under trial for drug-related offences, whereas Dillibazar prison contains 5 foreign convicts, with another 9 awaiting court verdicts. Similarly, Nakkhu Jail contains 32 foreigners convicted for drug smuggling, according to the department.
Parsa district jail contains 114 such inmates, a majority of them Indians.
Among the other foreign inmates also, those from India are the most numerous, followed by Bangladeshi nationals. Apart from them, convicts from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Nigeria, Belgium, China, USA and Malaysia are also serving time in Nepal´s prisons.
Because of shortcomings in the legal provisions related to drug offences, the numbers of those convicted for such crimes have increased, Director General Shrestha said, adding that it is not justifiable to impose the same sort of sentences for those nabbed with a small quantity of contraband as for those arrested with huge quantities.
“There should be clear variation in punishment on the basis of the quantity of the contraband involved,” he said, adding, “We have been mulling changes in the panelizing system and separating out those convicted of heinous crimes.”
A drug trafficker can face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 500,000.