Malaysia: Shariah court sentences Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights to the cane for drinking alcohol

Amnesty International condemns upholding of sentence

Amnesty International today condemned the decision by a Shariah Court in Malaysia to uphold the decision to sentence a 32-year-old woman to six strokes of the cane for drinking alcohol in a hotel.

It is the first time the cane has been used as a punishment for anyone found guilty of violating the country’s religious laws.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was original convicted on 20 July. However, an appeal meant the sentence was suspended until yesterday’s hearing by the Shariah Court of Appeal in the Malaysian state of Pahang.

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director, said: “The Malaysian government should do all it can to stop this inhumane punishment from being used and place a moratorium on caning as a sentence – with a view to repealing all laws providing for this and all other forms of corporal punishment.”

He added: "Since 2002, more than 35,000 irregular migrants have been caned or flogged. Caning is a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and is prohibited under international human rights law.

“These rights may never be suspended under any circumstances. Malaysia should take a lead within the region in establishing these human rights standards, particularly as a country aiming to reach developed nation status by the end of the next decade.”

Background information:
· Kartika pleaded guilty at the original hearing and was sentenced to six strokes of the cane and fined RM5,000 (approximately US$ 1,400). The judge in the case had also threatened to jail her for three years if she did not pay the fine, which she subsequently paid.
· Caning is currently used as a supplementary punishment for at least 40 crimes in Malaysia.
· The Shariah law applies only to Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the country’s 28 million.
· In June 2009, the Malaysian government announced that they had sentenced 47,914 migrants to be caned for immigration offences since amendments to its Immigration Act came into force in 2002.
· Since Kartika’s sentence at least two further cases have resulted in Muslims being sentenced to caning. In September, the Pahang Syariah court sentenced an Indonesian Muslim man to six strokes of the cane and a year in prison for drinking alcohol while later in the month, the Syariah Court in the State of Selangor sentenced a Muslim couple to six strokes of the cane each after they were caught trying to have pre-marital sex.

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