Brunei’s draconian new penal code comes into force

Brunei’s draconian new penal code comes into force

Kerry Wise
April 5, 2019

Meanwhile, Brunei issued a statement over the weekend, insisting that it enforces its own rule of law, with the Sultan stating that the country was fair and happy in a public address on Wednesday (3rd April).

Since the new penal code was first announced in 2013, the who's who of Hollywood have shunned the celebrated Beverly Hills Hotel painted in pink and green and once a favorite of celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, and Elizabeth Taylor and The Beatles.

And earlier this week singer Elton John backed George Clooney's plan to boycott hotels owned by the country's leader, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah.

The German president's office said that orders awarded during state visits can not be revoked, but stressed President Frank-Walter Steinmeier's rejection of the death penalty and stance that threatening gay people with "cruel punishments" violates elementary human rights.

The nine hotels are some of the most exclusive in the world and make up the Dorchester Collection, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the government.

The laws also apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.

"What Brunei is adopting is a violation of basic human rights", a 33-year-old gay man in the country, who spoke anonymously, told AFP.

Homosexuality was already illegal in the country and carried a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

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The European Union condemned Brunei's new laws saying some of the "cruel" punishments now permitted under a sharia penal code amount to torture and breach global human rights agreements.

This sentence now also applies to those who commit rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sex and for insulting the Prophet Muhammed.

The federal government has also being urged to revoke Royal Brunei Airlines' right to land in Australia after the Asian nation introduced its new death penalty laws.

They are particularly upsetting for the country´s small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

"We continue to encourage Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015, and to sign, ratify, and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", Palladino said.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said: "This kind of law doesn't belong in the 21st century". For women convicted of having sexual relations with other women, the maximum punishment is 40 strokes of the cane or a maximum 10-year jail term.

"If implemented in its current form (the code) would enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach worldwide human rights law - including death by stoning", she said in a statement.

The country first introduced Sharia law in 2014 despite widespread condemnation, giving it a dual legal system with both Sharia and Common Law.