Aceh plans stiffer punishments for Sharia offenders

Local religious and political leaders say the proposed laws are right for Acehnese society, but some are raising human rights concerns, objecting to what they describe as a form of torture and discriminatory.

By Nurdin Hasan for Khabar Southeast Asia in Banda Aceh

July 05, 2013
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Two new laws being deliberated in Aceh's parliament (DPRA) could make caning far more common in the province by lengthening the list of offenses that carry the sentence and making the punishment mandatory.

  • An Acehnese girl is caned after being found guilty of kissing in public, a serious violation under Sharia law. The punishment was carried out in front of the Al-Munawarrah Mosque in Jantho City, on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, on December 10th, 2010. [Nurdin Hasan/Khabar]

    An Acehnese girl is caned after being found guilty of kissing in public, a serious violation under Sharia law. The punishment was carried out in front of the Al-Munawarrah Mosque in Jantho City, on the outskirts of Banda Aceh, on December 10th, 2010. [Nurdin Hasan/Khabar]

DPRA Deputy Chairman Sulaiman Abda said the two draft regional laws or qanun are urgently needed as part of efforts to enforce Sharia law more fully in the province, and that various sectors of society are pressing for their immediate passage, which he hopes to see this year.

Deliberations on the matter in a special committee of the DPRA have included ulema, academics, activists, police officers, lawyers, and community leaders, to ensure the resulting bylaws are "of good quality and acceptable to Acehnese society," he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Broader laws with stiffer punishments

The new laws are intended to correct what Sulaiman said were weaknesses in four bylaws in place for the last ten years on gambling, alcohol use, khalwat – unmarried men and women being alone together – and syiar Islam, a broad category related to promoting an Islamic environment.

"The weakness of the existing qanun is that public caning is carried out only on violators who are willing to be caned on their own volition, after being convicted in a Sharia court," Sulaiman said. In addition, Sharia law violators cannot be detained under existing law.

The new laws would enable authorities to detain violators during prosecution and trial, and make punishment mandatory, according to a draft obtained by Khabar.

They outline several additional offenses and specify penalties ranging from 40 to 400 lashes in public, compared to three to 40 under existing laws. The law would sentence alcohol users to 40 lashes or 40 months in jail, and gamblers to 60 lashes plus a fine of 60 grammes of pure gold, or 60 months in jail.

Adulterers would receive 100 lashes, and rapists 100 to 200 lashes, or the equivalent number of months in jail. The rape of a child would be punishable with up to 400 lashes or months in jail.

A person found guilty of sexual harrassment would receive 60 lashes plus a fine of 600 grammes of pure gold or 60 months in jail, or twice those amounts if the victim was a child.

Homosexuality would be penalised with 100 lashes, 1,000 grammes of pure gold or 100 months in jail, while a person deemed to have promoted homosexuality could be caned 80 times, fined 800 grammes of pure gold or sentenced to 80 months in jail.

A form of torture?

The chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Aceh, Tengku Faisal Ali, said he fully supports the penalties prescribed in the draft laws.

"With heavy penalties, there will be no more violations of Sharia law. People will think more before committing any acts prohibited by our religion," he said.

"Most importantly, it is indicative of the willingness of the government to seriously enforce Islamic law in Aceh," he added.

Syahrizal Abbas, the head of Islamic Sharia Agency in Aceh, called the proposed laws "quite humanist" because they give judges sentencing alternatives, from lashes and fines to jail time.

But Destika Gilang Lestari, co-ordinator for the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Aceh, expressed opposition to caning.

"Kontras rejects any kind of corporal punishment, because it is a form of torture that violates higher laws. Indonesia has ratified the anti-torture convention," she added, referring to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

She expressed concern that the new laws would place greater economic and physical burdens on regular Acehnese.

During the past decade, no government official found guilty of violating sharia law in Aceh has been caned; only regular citizens have submitted to the punishment.

"In Aceh Besar, there are four officials sentenced to 12 lashes for gambling in 2011, but the sentence has never been executed," said Muhammad Rusli, head of the Pamong Praja and Wilayatul Hisbah police units in Aceh Besar.

Jamaluddin Usman Ismail, an Acehnese working for a private company in Banda Aceh, said he hoped the new bylaws would be fairly enforced.

"I hope these qanun will apply to anyone regardless of their status, including government officials and regular Acehnese," he told Khabar. "No more corruption for government officials in Aceh, because it is also prohibited by Islam."

Reader Comments
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    • asamson
      May 6, 2014 @ 09:05:50PM
    • Especially people who are lower than their own pets and/or neighbors who commit adultery, whether at the social level or at the level of the rulers. If necessary, shoot them where they stand so they will think about facing an Islamic executioner and not a thug, when they want to commit adultery.
    • heri
      July 23, 2013 @ 08:07:03PM
    • like
    • aiza
      July 19, 2013 @ 05:07:42PM
    • I agree. Why didn't we enforce Islamic law in the first place so that we could have become used to our own laws? If you start enforcing it now it would be difficult to implement.
    • Fauzan
      July 10, 2013 @ 09:07:39AM
    • When human beings put religion first they have truly forgotten the main purpose of religion, which is to become close to and serve God. Religion is personal and is not to be forced upon any individual.
    • Dany nedjad
      July 9, 2013 @ 10:07:21AM
    • There is nothing wrong with having regulations and laws, even if they have been approved by clerics, the government should be fair so there is not only the common people who receive punishments when there are many government officials commit immoral acts but remain untouched by the law, in fact, many of them are protected. It is like the pot calling the kettle black. The common people have feeling too, they are not blind. This is a fact.
    • gurah mutuwee
      July 9, 2013 @ 08:07:42AM
    • I fully support that to move forward.
    • fadhil muhammad
      July 9, 2013 @ 07:07:02AM
    • I agree with harsh punishment so that people would repent but it should apply to the savage policemen who always manipulate the Islamic law.
    • Syahrul
      July 9, 2013 @ 05:07:28AM
    • Agree.
    • andhy jambie amizur
      July 9, 2013 @ 05:07:52AM
    • After reading the news above, I agree to the punishments because they violate the doctrines of Allah's religion and must be punished. However, it should not discriminate. Those officials who violate these laws do not have to worry about anything but once a commoner does it, he/she would be examined meticulously. That is called regulations that are feared, not regulations to abide by. Wss.
    • sudoyo imam santosa
      July 9, 2013 @ 01:07:42AM
    • Are you serious? At the Hermes Hotel in Banda Aceh officials indulge in debauchery every day, committing every form of Islamic Sharia violations. Yet, the Wilayatul Hisbah and the civil service police officers do not have the courage to touch them. Does Sharia apply only to the middle class and below? If Islamic Sharia is to be upheld then it should not discriminate. Show it in the form of tangible action, do not just preach. We as citizens support the enforcement of the Islamic Sharia that applies to all, without regard to social divides and status. Can Sharia be implemented as such? We want to see what you will do!
    • Hamdan
      July 8, 2013 @ 02:07:54PM
    • I agree, if Aceh is to become a sharia city it should not show favoritism in carrying out the punishments for violators.
    • syafii
      July 8, 2013 @ 06:07:15AM
    • Good for Aceh.
    • Moch Heru
      July 6, 2013 @ 06:07:22AM
    • Islamic Sharia must indeed be upheld so they understand the misery of worldly punishment, before punishment in the afterlife becomes real.
    • Roz
      July 5, 2013 @ 11:07:12AM
    • Jez I think this is terrible..fancy canning a women.. understand Sharia Law..that still does not give you or anyone else to apply Violence on another human being, especially a god here you guys are applyiing violence on a young lady..WHATS wrong with you people!!!!! And what is wrong with two people or anyone giving affection to each other...GIVE THEM A BREAK. Our world is bitter and twisted now without all this crap. Whatever happens sooner or later we areall going to die...KISSING or affection is not going to lessen your time on earth...>>>/>>.:_) to u guys up there, we hope u c find som comfort in our thoughts. Sharia Law is must, huh??? Theres other ways without detection, huh??? Thoughts with ya all..take care..ciao ciao :)
      January 9, 2014 @ 09:01:29AM
    • To Roz! My religion is my religion, your religion is your religion! Continue with Islamic Sharia. Allah is great!
    • Helena
      July 4, 2013 @ 11:07:21PM
    • I agree with Kontras, especially if it is proven that officials are immune to the same laws.

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