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Indonesia warned over caning of gang rape victim

Amnesty International calls for review of Aceh bylaws

Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta

May 14, 2014

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The Indonesian government has been urged by Amnesty International to review bylaws governing the implementation of sharia law in Aceh province, following an international outcry after it emerged that a young woman gang-raped after being caught with a married man faces the cane.

Sharia law was implemented in the province a decade ago. The London-based rights group said that the government should “undertake a review of all local regulations that have been put in place in the last decade in Aceh” in the wake of charges leveled against the 25-year-old in the city of Langsa.

“Despite its human rights obligations, the central government has refused to repeal sharia’s bylaws which use caning as a form of punishment, arguing that these laws are part of the special autonomy arrangements with the province,” Amnesty said in a statement on Monday.

The case came to light in last week after the woman was gang raped by eight men including a 13-year-old boy, who raided her house and found her with a 40-year-old married man. He also faces caning.

Local police arrested three men on May 4 and are still looking for the others.

“Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and violates the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, which Indonesia ratified in 1998,” AI said.

Syahrizal Abbas, head of the Aceh Islamic Sharia Agency, told that caning was intended as a deterrent. “So the essence is not about hurting people’s bodies,” he said.

He said however that the province would be ready for a review if needed. “But we must see first what we must review as there are legal norms and legal practices.”

On the issue of the rape case, he added that “caning is given only if the woman is found guilty of committing adultery, and her caning can be postponed until she is in good condition.”

Article 22 of Qanun Khalwat, or the bylaw on adultery, issued in July 2003, says that every individual committing adultery faces a maximum of nine strokes of the cane and a minimum of three strokes, with a fine of between 2.5 and 10 million rupiah (between US$217 and US$868).

Additional laws governing consumption of alcohol and gambling also use the cane as a punishment.

According to Amnesty, at least 139 people were caned in the province between 2010 and 2013.

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