Brunei introduces death penalty for adultery and same-gender sexual intercourse

Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah.

The Southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei has introduced a new law which will punish adultery and homosexual sex with death by stoning.

The law which comes into effect today and only applies to Muslims, stipulates that any individuals found guilty of the sex offences will be stoned to death and will be “witnessed by a group of Muslims.”

Brunei’s new laws were declared in 2014, and have been implemented gradually. The latest stage of legislative implementation was announced on the Brunei attorney general’s website on 29 December 2018.

There was an outcry from the western world when in 2014 Brunei became the first country in the region to adopt Shariah law, an Islamic legal system which includes harsh corporal punishments.

With growing pressure from the international community, Brunei said it does intend to stop the law.

A recent statement from the Prime Minister’s office said Brunei has “always been practicing a dual legal system, one that is based on the Shariah Law and the other on Common Law.”

The statement added that the two legal systems will run in parallel starting today, and will “maintain peace and order and preserve religion, life, family and individuals regardless of gender, nationality, race and faith.”

It concluded: “The Shariah Law, apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, it also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.”

The small oil-rich kingdom with a population of 450,000 people is located on the island of Borneo, close to fellow Muslim majority countries Malaysia and Indonesia.

Brunei has also banned the sale of alcohol.

Outcry from United Nations

The United Nations (UN) has condemned what it described as “cruel and inhuman” laws, which also include amputation for theft.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said in a statement: “I appeal to the government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented.

Ms Bachelet stressed that international law imposes stringent restrictions on the use of the death penalty, which can be applied only for the crimes of murder and intentional killing, and only after all due process requirements have been met.

She added: “In reality, no judiciary in the world can claim to be mistake-free, and evidence shows that the death penalty is disproportionately applied against people who are already vulnerable, with a high risk of miscarriages of justice.

“I urge Brunei to maintain its de facto moratorium on the use of capital punishment.

“Any religion-based legislation must not violate human rights, including the rights of those belonging to the majority religion as well as of religious minorities and non-believers.”

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