The sultan of Brunei, a tiny nation that borders Malaysia, has begun imposing Sharia law, which will eventually sentence LGBT people to death by stoning. In addition to targeting LGBT people, a whole host of laws and harsh punishments are being implemented in the country.
The new penal code, based on Islamic Sharia law, will make Brunei the first country in East Asia to adopt such law. It would be the first time since 1957 that Brunei would enforce a law with the death penalty.
"Today... I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday May 1, 2014, will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases," Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in a speech, Agence France-Presse reports.
Phase one of the law will allow for fines and jail terms for offenses such as “indecent behavior, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies,” according to AFP. The second phase, going into effect later this year, will cover crimes including theft and robbery, making them punishable by severing of limbs and flogging. “Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offenses including sodomy and adultery will be introduced,” AFP notes. The law was scheduled to go into effect April 22 but was postponed due to “unavoidable circumstances.”
The United Nations has expressed its concern about the brutal treatment of its own citizens, noting that stoning to death constitutes cruel and unusual punishment:
“Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“We urge the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised penal code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards,” he told a news conference in Geneva.
Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the Government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.
Among other measures, the revised code introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations.
“Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” stated Mr. Colville.
He added that a number of UN studies have also revealed that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotyping against them, including among law enforcement and judicial officers.
The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, Mr. Colville noted.
“The provisions of the revised penal code may encourage further violence and discrimination against women and also against people on the basis of sexual orientation,” he warned.