Image via WikipediaSource: Jakarta Globe
Indonesian rights activists condemned as "cruel and degrading" Tuesday a new Islamic law calling for adulterers to be stoned to death in the country's staunchly conservative Aceh province.
The law -- which also allows punishments of up to 400 lashes for child rape, 100 lashes for homosexual acts and 60 lashes for gambling -- was passed unanimously Monday by lawmakers in the region at the northern tip of Sumatra island.
The law replaces elements of Indonesia's criminal code with sharia, or Islamic law, for Muslims. It allows the death penalty for married people and 100 lashes for unmarried people found guilty in cases of adultery.
"The laws that have been approved in Aceh are cruel and degrading to humanity," National Commission on Human Rights head Ifdhal Kasim told AFP.
The law undermines the secular basis of Indonesia's law, Kasim said, adding the rights group was appealing to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to review the legislation.
"This will bring Aceh back to the past. Throwing stones is like Aceh in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries," Kasim said, adding the law would likely embolden conservatives pushing for sharia on a national level.
The controversial legal change was passed in Aceh just weeks before a new, more moderate provincial assembly -- dominated by the Aceh Party of former separatist fighters of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) -- is due to take power.
The administration of Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, himself a former GAM fighter, is opposed to the strict sharia law, but has said it is powerless to stop the law, which will come into effect in 30 days with or without his signature.
"(The law) only deals with petty crimes, adulterers, but it doesn't deal with (significant crimes such as) corrupt officials," Human Rights Watch spokesman Andreas Harsono said.
"In our opinion it is against the principle of human rights," he said.
Human Rights Working Group head Rafendi Djamin said the punishments set out in the law were "humiliating and degrading" and a product of politicking among local leaders.
"They're more interested in private issues than issues of the wider public interest like corruption and measures to empower people who have been suffering in the wake of conflict," Djamin said.
Arif Budimanta, a senior official of the opposition Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, condemned the law -- despite local members having supported it in the Aceh assembly.
"We are deeply concerned about this cruel law as it is against our national ideology and values of pluralism," he said.
Spokesmen for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general re-elected by a landslide earlier this year, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ma'ruf Amin, the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, Indonesia's top Islamic body, welcomed the new hardline law.
"The Council supports sharia law in areas where it is allowed, like Aceh, which has special autonomy. It's not a matter of good or bad.
"For Muslims, sharia law is the best and can be implemented anytime, anywhere. As long as there is agreement from everyone, there's no problem," Amin said.
Aceh had previously adopted a milder form of sharia law in 2001 as part of an autonomy package from Jakarta aimed at quelling local separatist sentiment.
The sharia code enforced religious observation and offered lighter punishments -- including caning -- for gambling, drinking and association between unmarried members of the opposite sex.
Separatists in Aceh had been fighting the Indonesian government since 1976 until a peace deal in 2005 in a conflict that claimed over 15,000 lives.
Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia's 234 million people are Muslim, but the country also has significant Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Confucian minorities. Most Muslims practise a moderate form of the religion.
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