Indonesia: Aceh must drop proposal to introduce beheading as method of execution

Reacting to the news that the Aceh provincial administration in Indonesia is considering the introduction of beheading as a punishment for murder, Amnesty International Indonesia executive director, Usman Hamid said:

“The Aceh local government must immediately drop any plans to introduce the gruesome punishment of beheading as a method of execution and should instead get rid of the death penalty all together. The Aceh administration’s argument that beheading could prevent murder is both baseless and unacceptable. There is no evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect on crime, no matter how shocking the method of execution is.

“The Aceh administration cannot use its special autonomous status in order to introduce laws and policies that flagrantly violate human rights. The authorities need to focus on the root causes of crime and informed debates on the death penalty as a human rights violation, and swiftly move to abolish this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

“The Central government should intervene and ask – or if unavoidable order - the Aceh administration to drop this plan. Aceh, and Indonesia as a whole, must immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its eventual repeal.”

Background

On Thursday, the Aceh administration announced that it was considering introducing death by beheading as a punishment for murder. It claimed that such a punishment could prevent and reduce the number of murders in Aceh. The local government said that it would carry out research this year to gauge public opinion in Aceh on the plan. If a majority of people in Aceh support the plan, it will be implemented, according to the government. The local government said that it wanted to follow in the footsteps of a number of countries in the world, such as Saudi Arabia, which “effectively reduced the number of murders” after implementing beheading as a punishment.

The conservative province of Aceh is also known for implementing other cruel, inhuman and degrading forms of punishment, which often amount to torture, such as canning in public for gamblers and adulterers. Two men, arrested on 28 March 2017 and charged with consensual same-sex sexual relations (liwath) under the Aceh Islamic Criminal Code, were sentenced to 85 strokes each by the Banda Aceh Shari’a Court on 17 May. Shari’a bylaws have been in force in Aceh since the enactment of the province’s Special Autonomy Law in 2001, and are enforced by Islamic courts. This is the first time gay men have been caned under Shari’a law in the province. Consensual same-sex relations are not treated as a crime under the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP).

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. As of today, 106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds of the world’s countries are abolitionist in law or practice.