Lettre à l'Ambassadeur de Malaysie
As president of the “ligue du droit international des femme”, an NGO created by Simone de Beauvoir, I am deeply concerned to learn that the Malaysia court of appeals has upheld the sentence of caning of Madam Kartika. Madam Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32, married with two children, has been sentenced to six strokes of the rotan in Pahang state. We fear the implementation of this sentence would set a very dangerous precedent for women (both citizens and non-citizens) to be caned in Malaysia in contravention of Malaysia's own constitutional law. Such precedent would be set irrespective of whether Madam Kartika herself accepts the sentence imposed on her. The urgency of a government review of the caning penalty for alcohol consumption has been underlined by further cases in which the same judge passed this sentence on five Muslim men and women, including Nazarudin Kamaruddin, 46, also in Pahang state.
In early August, the chief judge of a state Sharia appeals court ordered the sentence to be deferred pending the review, and the Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was quoted as saying, “The overriding view was that the sentence meted out was too harsh and is not commensurate with the offence,”. In the meantime, Syariah prosecution head Datuk Abdul Rahim Jaafar said the department would not announce when 32-year-old Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno would be caned, scheduled for after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, to avoid a "media circus". The department would only announce it after the punishment had been carried out.
Madam Kartika was sentenced by the Pahang Syariah Court to be lashed six times and fined RM 5000 as punishment for drinking beer with her husband in a hotel nightclub in Cherating (Pahang state) on 12 July 2007. The mother of two was charged under Section 136 of the Pahang Islamic and Malay Traditional Practices Enactment (Amendment) 1987. The sentence was expected to be carried out on 4 August 2009. However, the Syariah High Court then sentenced Madam Kartika to an even harsher punishment by ordering her to be detained for seven days. Judge Datuk Abdul Rahman Yunus also approved another two applications by the state Religious Department to allow the prison's director to carry out the caning and release Madam Kartika after the punishment was served. Following national and international condemnation, the sentence was indefinitely suspended, pending review. Sisters in Islam (SIS) of Malaysia submitted an application for revision and stay of execution of the caning sentence passed on Madam Kartika. However, I have now learnt that the caning will shortly take place.
I am deeply concerned about the increased state-imposed violence exemplified by Madam Kartika’s case. As a member state of the United Nations, Malaysia has agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). By detaining and caning Madam Kartika, I believe Malaysia violates the following articles of the UDHR:
• No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks (Article 12).
• No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5).
At its 61st Annual General Meeting (17 March 2007), the Malaysian Bar called for the abolition of whipping as a punishment for any offence as it is “anachronistic and inconsistent with a compassionate society.”
Furthermore, I maintain that being sentenced to caning violates Madam Kartika’s right to physical and mental integrity. I find the punishment of Madam Kartika to be disproportionate to the crime committed, and strongly protest the use of violent punishment in this and all other pending cases. For these reasons, I urge for this case to be suspended.
Presidente de la ligue du droit international des femmes