Indonesia: WLUML Welcomes the Removal of Stoning Sentence from Aceh Bylaws

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)  welcome news that the government in Aceh, Indonesia has recently removed a provision calling for adulterers to be stoned to death from its draft set of criminal bylaws (Qanun Jinayat).

The Qanun Jinayat was passed by the Aceh Legislative Council in September 2009. However, it has not been implemented yet due to criticism and pressure from within Indonesia and internationally.

Enforcement of ‘sharia law’ has steadily expanded in Aceh since the territory was granted special autonomy status. The Sharia Court (Mahkamah Syar’iyyah) was established in 2001. In 2002, the Aceh Legislative Council enacted the Court’s legal code. The Sharia Court was formally inaugurated by Presidential decree in 2003. In 2004, there was a formal transfer of some criminal jurisdiction from the General Court to the Sharia Court by decree of the Supreme Court. In 2005, the Sharia Court was in full operation and executing its verdicts.

The Court has subsequently passed laws including mandatory headscarves for women, prohibitions on alcohol, morality policing, compulsory prayers, and caning sentences meted out for gambling. In 2009, ‘sharia’ jurisprudence took a quantum leap forward with the Qanun Jinayat. Punishments under these criminal bylaws constitute torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by international human rights standards. The Governor of Aceh previously blocked implementation of the bylaws and gave Aceh’s civil society groups the opportunity to propose an alternative set of laws.

We welcome the removal of the brutal punishment of stoning in the Qanun Jinayat. However,  we are concerned that this amendment may be a compromise aiming to garner a broader base of support for the Qanun Jinayat as a whole.

We still consider the Qanun Jinayat regressive. Under the bylaws: 

 • A rape victim risks being charged with extramarital sex (zina) if she is unable to provide four male witnesses to her assault as cases of rape will be treated similarly to cases of consensual sex;

• Those who commit rape at the command of superiors with authority will be granted impunity;

• Alleged “homosexual behaviour” is criminalized.

The following harsh punishments remain in the bylaws: 

• Homosexuality: 100 cane lashes and a maximum fine of 1,000 grams of gold, or imprisonment of up to 100 months;

• Pedophilia: Up to 200 cane lashes and a fine of up to 2,000 grams of gold, or maximum imprisonment of 200 months;

• Rape: Up to 300 cane lashes, or imprisonment of up to 200 months.

These brutal and discriminatory punishments constitute a violation of fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, in particular:

• Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

• Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

• Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

These Articles are further codified in major international human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, both of which Indonesia has signed and ratified and is thus obligated to respect, protect and fulfill in its domestic laws and in State practice.

We therefore call upon the Indonesian authorities to:

Indonesian Constitutional Court - undertake a judicial review of the Qanun Jinayat , including the sources that were used by the Aceh Legislative Council in passing the law;

Governor of Aceh - postpone implementation of the Qanun Jinayat and  support an open and comprehensive judicial review;

The Minister of Domestic Affairs - with the Department of Domestic Affairs, work to prevent the creation of discriminatory local regulations that run counter to the Indonesian Constitution;

The President of the Republic of Indonesia - stand firm in a commitment to women’s human rights, and issue a Presidential Instruction for all government officials in the ministries and local government to conduct a comprehensive review and repeal of discriminatory and unconstitutional regulations, in particular the criminal bylaws in Aceh.