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Amnesty Condemns Caning of Gay Men in Indonesia by Sharia or Islamic law in Indonesia

Amnesty International has called the punishment, meted out by a religious court in the province which adheres to Sharia or Islamic law, a flagrant violation of international human rights law

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Shariah law official whips one of two men convicted of gay sex during a public caning outside a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, May 23, 2017. VOA

Indonesia, May 30, 2017: As local activists say caning as a punishment in Indonesia’s Aceh province is increasing in use and severity, the public caning of two gay men is being questioned by some residents.

Amnesty International has called the punishment, meted out by a religious court in the province which adheres to Sharia or Islamic law, a flagrant violation of international human rights law and says it “may amount to torture.”

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Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono, the executive director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, told VOA Indonesia that there have been marked changes in the practice of caning in Aceh since last year — the number of those punished is increasing, as is the severity of the sentences.

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“There were at least 350 people caned in 2016 and it’s a significant increase,” he said. “The increase is not just about the number of convicts, but also the severity of the punishments. Caning used to be a social sanction to embarrass or create a deterrent effect, but now to actually harm a person.”

FILE - A police officer escort two men convicted of gay sex to be publicly caned at a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province Indonesia, May 23, 2017.
FILE – A police officer escort two men convicted of gay sex to be publicly caned at a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province Indonesia, May 23, 2017. VOA

Although the punishment drew a crowd Tuesday, not all Acehnese support the practice. Uzair, who was in attendance, told VOA Indonesia that most citizens are skeptical about the implementation of Qanun Jinayat, the part of Sharia that governs the punishment for immoral acts. The section covering same-sex relations, Article 63 (1), states any people found guilty face a maximum sentence of 100 lashes or pay a maximum fine of 1,000 grams of pure gold or face 100-month imprisonment.

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Hundreds of local residents gathered in front of Syiah Kuala Mosque in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, to watch the caning of eight people, including the two gay men who received the most severe punishments.

Wearing white gowns, the two men stood on a stage praying while a team of hooded men lashed their backs with a cane 83 times. The pair, aged 20 and 23, were found in bed together after local residents who suspected they were gay entered their boarding house in March. The men were detained and sentenced to 85 lashes on May 17 by the Banda Aceh Sharia Court, a punishment which was reduced to reflect time served.

They were the first gay men caned under Sharia law in Aceh. Consensual same-sex relations are not treated as crimes under the Indonesian Criminal Code, according to Amnesty International. Sharia bylaws have been in force in Aceh since the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law in 2001, and the province fully enacted a strict Islamic criminal code in 2014. It is enforced by Islamic courts.

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“Many Acehnese and even Indonesians are skeptical [about caning] … because it’s only punishing immoral acts such as gambling, drinking, prostitution or gay acts, but never those who are corrupt,” Uzair said.

Two men convicted of gay sex, center, are surrounded as Shariah law officials escort them to a mosque to be publicly caned in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, May 23, 2017.
Two men convicted of gay sex, center, are surrounded as Shariah law officials escort them to a mosque to be publicly caned in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia, May 23, 2017. VOA

“This law is only used to punish us, the people, not the officials,” he added, describing a case of a local official caught hiring prostitutes. “He was not punished at all. Our local leader argued that there was no evidence. We are speechless.”

Uzair went on to say people do not speak up about the authorities’ use of Qanun Jinayat.

“We live in an age and area where the silent majority or the voice of the ordinary people are not heard enough, because there are voices of conservative groups who talk loudly,” he said. “If we say something that is considered contrary to their view, we will be accused as infidel or anti-Islam.”

In April after the two men were detained, Widodo’s organization issued a statement against the use of Qanun Jinayat in Aceh, saying the practice had the potential to cause discrimination of the LGBT community and other groups.

“The state has gone too far by interfering on the private affairs of its citizens and making their personal matters a public affair. This will eventually lead to discrimination and injustice against vulnerable groups, including LGBT communities.”

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2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to be Postponed Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus Forces Delay of 2020 Olympics

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A man wearing protective face mask, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, looks at his mobile phone next to The Olympic rings in front of the Japan Olympics Museum in Tokyo, Japan. VOA

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday.

Although the International Olympic Committee had said it would spend up to a month debating the matter, the decision to postpone became inevitable after several countries said they would not send athletes if the Games were held this summer.

“The IOC president and the prime minister of Japan have concluded that the Games must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later that summer 2021 to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games, and the international community,” the IOC and the Japanese organizing committee said in a joint statement Tuesday.

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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks to the journalists in front of the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo. VOA

Both committees say they made their decision after consulting with the World Health Organization. Abe and the IOC had said that canceling the Games had always been out of the question.

“The Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present,” the IOC said.

Abe told reporters in Tokyo that when the Games finally gets under way, it will prove that “humanity had beat the coronavirus.”

The Summer Games were to have opened July 24.

Team USA, which represents triathlon and duathlon Olympic contenders, tweeted its thanks to the Tokyo organizers for what it says is “all you have done for a great Olympic and Paralympic Games. We wish you all the best as you keep your communities safe and offer our cooperation and support as you prepare to host the world.”

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A man takes pictures of the Olympic Flame during a ceremony in Fukushima City, Japan. VOA

The Olympics have been canceled three times since the modern Games began in 1896. They were scrapped in 1916 during World War I and in 1940 and 1944 during World War II.

The Games have been boycotted, propagandized by Nazi Germany, and attacked by terrorists, but have never before been postponed.

Japanese organizers said Tuesday they are also postponing the Olympic torch relay that was supposed to start Thursday.

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The flame arrived in Japan from its traditional lighting in Greece on March 12. It was supposed to have traveled around Japan, to be used to light the flame at the opening ceremonies in Tokyo.

The torch will remain in Fukushima until the Games are firmly rescheduled. (VOA)