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International community condemns lashing of gay men in Indonesia

International community condemns lashing of gay men in Indonesia

Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh

Two men in Indonesia arrested on suspicion of being gay should be released immediately according to Human Rights Watch.

The men aged in their twenties were arrested on March 28 in Aceh under the province’s Sharia Law.

Reports said unidentified vigilantes forcibly entered a home. They then brought the two men found there to the police for allegedly having same-sex relations.

The men have been detained at a Sharia police facility in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. The chief inspector said the men had confessed to being gay and would be detained for sentencing. Under Aceh’s Islamic Criminal Code (Qanun Jinayah), they face up to 100 lashes in public . The HRW said lashing is a punishment that constitutes torture under international law.

‘The arrest and detention of these two men underscores the abuse imbedded in Aceh’s discriminatory, anti-LGBT ordinances,’ said Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia division director.

‘These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the ‘crime’ of their alleged sexual orientation.’

Disturbing vigilante video

Cell phone video footage of the raid, apparently shot by one of the vigilantes shows one of the men visibly distressed as he calls for help on his cellphone. ‘Please brother, please stop,’ one of the men said in the video.

‘My parents want to talk to you, they can pick me up,’ he said.

Aceh’s Sharia Law allows members of the public and the Sharia police to publicly identify and detain anyone suspected of violating its rules.

Qanun Jinayat is a strict Islamic Sharia code unique to the Aceh province. Aceh is the only Indonesian province that can legally adopt by-laws derived from Sharia due to a ‘Special Status‘ agreement brokered in 1999. It has slowly been implemented in the province since 2014.

Aceh is openly homophobic

Local government officials in Aceh have actively stoked homophobia according to HRW.

In 2012 then-Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin advocated harsh punishments for homosexuality, telling the media: ‘If we ignore it, it will be like an iceberg…Even if one case of homosexuality [is] found, it’s already a problem…[W]e are really concerned about the behavior and activities of the gay community, because their behavior is deviating from the Islamic Shariah.’

HRW said Aceh’s Sharia ordinances violate fundamental human rights guaranteed under core international human rights treaties. Indonesia is party to those treaties.

In 2015 two teenagers were accused of being lesbians and arrested Aceh. They were detained for three nights. Police tried to force the women to identify other LGBTI people in the area from social media photos.

‘President Jokowi (Joko Widodo) should urgently intervene is this case to demonstrate his stated commitment to ending discrimination against LGBT people,’ Kine said.

‘Jokowi then needs to act to eliminate Aceh’s discriminatory ordinances so these outrageous arrests don’t happen again.’