An Indonesian Christian is publicly flogged outside a mosque in Banda Aceh on Feb. 27 for playing a children's entertainment game seen as violating Islamic law. Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that imposes Shariah. The province is considering introducing beheading as a punishment for murder. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)
Aceh, the only province in Indonesia that implements Shariah, is considering the introduction of beheading as a punishment for murder, according to an Islamic law official.
The local government will first gather public opinion on the proposal, according to Syukri Yusuf, head of the province's Shariah law and human rights office.
"We believe this sentence will be effective in reducing crime, especially murders," he told ucanews.com on March 15.
Authorities in the conservative province have implemented Shariah since 2001 as part of an agreement ending a three-decade struggle for independence and which paved the way for an autonomous region integrated into greater Indonesia.
The province, where 98 percent of its 4.5 million inhabitants are Muslim, already uses public caning to punish gay people, adulterers and gamblers.
Murder has so far been punished with a prison term despite the rest of the country imposing the death penalty for the crime and for drug trafficking.
This gives offenders the chance to repeat the crime when released, Yusuf said.
He pointed to Saudi Arabia as a country to follow in implementing harsh punishment for murder.
"In that country, where Muslims are the majority, murders have been reduced," he said, without providing any data to back the claim.
There is no data regarding the murder rate in Aceh. However, in January, the province was shocked by a case in which a couple was murdered along with their 8-year-old son.
Rights groups have roundly condemned the proposal.
Daniel Awigra from the Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in ASEAN said the Aceh government's reasoning was flawed and that capital punishment would not be effective.
"What should be done is to examine factors that trigger criminal behavior. That's what needs solving, not by actually committing murder under the pretext of the law," he said.
He also questioned the reasoning behind trying to follow Saudi Arabia's example.
"Saudi Arabia is moving towards re-evaluating such practices," he said.
"If you want to imitate what is practiced elsewhere, imitate something positive," he added.
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the Aceh government's move is ironic since efforts at national level are moving toward replacing the death penalty with a life sentence.
He said even though the provincial government has autonomy it still needs to refer to international provisions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which opposes the death penalty regardless of form and manner.