Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – In a visit to Sumatra's northernmost province, the European Union's ambassador to Indonesia expressed concern over human rights abuses, against women in particular, that have been documented under the semi-autonomous province's enforcement of shariah law.
"There have been a few cases during the implementation of sharia law in Aceh that have shed a negative light abroad," Ambassador Olof Skoog said on Tuesday, during his two-day visit to Aceh.
Over the course of his visit, Skoog – accompanied by the ambassadors from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Sweden – met and talked with local human rights activists, with Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah and with members of the Aceh Legislative Council (DPRA).
Skoog said that in every meeting he had expressed the EU's concern over the human rights impact of shariah in the province.
"Our concern is respect for women's rights in the Islamic shariah implementation," he said. "During the meeting with the governor we were convinced that Aceh is very tolerant for non-Muslims and that sharia law is implemented with a soft approach."
Muslims in Aceh face public caning for certain crimes, including adultery, under the local legal system. A woman and her married lover were sentenced to be caned for adultery in May, even after she had been gang-raped by vigilante enforcers of shariah, sparking domestic and international outrage.
Skoog said he expressed concern to Zaini over a measure passed in December 2013 that would expand the application of shariah to include non-Muslims.
"We have a concern over the implementation of these codes for non-muslims but we don't want to intervene too much, the most important thing is the respect for the human rights and tolerance within the shariah," he said.