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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
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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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Google’s ‘Chat’ service a gift to cybercriminals: Amnesty

RCS is a communication protocol between mobile-telephone carriers and between phone and carrier

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The logo of Google.
Google Chat is gift cybercriminals. Pixabay

Google’s decision to launch a new messaging service called “Chat” without end-to-end encryption shows utter contempt for the privacy of Android users and has handed a precious gift to cybercriminals and government spies alike, Amnesty International has said.

Communications on the new “Chat” service will not be sent over the Internet but through mobile phone carriers, like SMS text messages, according to reports.

Google Chat is becoming more famous.

In a statement to The Verge this week, a Google spokesperson confirmed that the new service will not use end-to-end encryption and that Google is “pausing investment” in its existing mobile messaging app “Allo” which has an option for end-to-end encryption.

“Not only does this shockingly retrograde step leave Google lagging behind its closest competitors — Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp both have end-to-end encryption in place by default — it is also a step backwards from the company’s previous attempts at online messaging,” Joe Westby, a technology and human rights researcher at Amnesty International, said on Friday.

Also Read: Google Will Take Action If Apps Violate Its Policies

Amnesty International considers end-to-end encryption a minimum requirement for technology companies to ensure that private information in messaging apps stays private. End-to-end encryption is a way of scrambling digital data so that only the sender and recipient can see it.

When it is in place, even the company providing the service is unable to access the content of communications. “Following the revelations by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, end-to-end encryption has become recognised as an essential safeguard for protecting people’s privacy when using messaging apps. With this new Chat service, Google shows a staggering failure to respect the human rights of its customers,” Westby said in a statement.

A Google picture.
The Chat is a security threat. VOA

In the wake of the recent Facebook data scandal, Westby said that Google’s decision is not only dangerous but also out of step with current attitudes to data privacy. “Google should immediately scrap it in its current form and instead give its customers a product that protects their privacy,” Westby suggested.

Google is going all in on building the Rich Communication Services (RCS). RCS is a communication protocol between mobile-telephone carriers and between phone and carrier, aiming at replacing SMS messages with a text-message system that is more rich, provide phonebook polling and transmit in-call multimedia. IANS