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UN joins Clooney in condemning new Brunei codes

UN disapproves of Brunei's new penal laws.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has urged the Government of Brunei to stop the introduction of its new penal codes that will be taking effect tomorrow.

The new codes will introduce the death penalty for rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and for insulting or defaming the Prophet Mohammad.

Gay and bisexual men caught having sex can be stoned to death, and queer women will be publicly flogged.

Brunei’s new Sharia Law allows for public floggings as a punishment for abortion as well as amputations for theft. They also criminalise introducing Muslim children to the practises or beliefs of any other religion other than Islam.

“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,” Bachelet said in her statement to the UN, yesterday.

In her statement, Bachelet highlighted that international human rights law and standards impose restrictions on the use of the death penalty. Whilst the death penalty has not been abolished internationally, there are restrictions in place in favour of its abolition.

Under the current restrictions, the death penalty may only be imposed in cases of murder or intentional killing after fulfilling lengthy trial requirements.

Whilst Brunei have kept the death penalty in their law, the last execution was carried out back in 1957.

“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,” Bachelet said.

The revised provisions of the penal code may also encourage violence and discrimination against women, on the basis of sexual orientation, and against minority religions.

“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,” she said.

Bachelet’s statement arrived after a number of politicians and celebrities, including George Clooney and Elton John, have condemned the new laws and called for a boycott of hotels owned by the sultanate.

In a guest column for Deadline, Clooney urged the immediate boycott of nine hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency [BIA] in response of the introduction of the new penal code.

The BIA, through the Dorchester collection, own a string of hotels internationally including some of the world’s most exclusive: The Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills.

Elton John, along with others, have shown support for Clooney’s plea.

Australian Senator Penny Wong, also took to social media, posting a statement of concern on twitter.

“The (Sharia) Law, apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race,” said the office of Brunei’s prime minister, in a statement.

The laws were announced in 2013, however due to heavy criticism have been on hold.

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, “does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them,” he said.

Brunei’s new penal codes, take effect tomorrow.


Photo: His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and Her Majesty Duli Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha 2017.jpg. Photo by GOV-PH, used under Creative Commons license. Photo found here.

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