The Sultan of Brunei,  Hassanal Bolkiah

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah

As from this month, gays and lesbians now face being stoned to death in the nation of Brunei, the first to enact Islamic sharia law in East Asia.

On Wednesday, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced the implementation of a new sharia penal code from the 1st of May, news that Amnesty International described as taking the country “back to the dark ages when it comes to human rights.”

According to the government’s website, the Sultan “asserted that in carrying out the Laws of Allah, the nation 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.”

The new code, which will run concurrently with the existing civil law system, allows for cruel and inhuman punishments including stoning to death, whipping and amputation.

The government said that a preliminary assessment will be made to decide the suitable court, civil or sharia, so that individuals will not be tried twice for the same crime.

“The new code even permits stoning to death for acts which should not be considered ‘crimes’ in the first place, such as extramarital sexual relations and consensual sex between adults of the same gender,” said Rupert Abbott, Deputy Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.

The new penal code also contains a range of provisions which will restrict the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and which discriminate against women.

The laws have received strong criticism from members of the international community, including international human rights organisations and the United Nations.

Amnesty reported that some LGBTI groups and others have reacted by boycotting businesses owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Abbott urged UN member states  to push Brunei, a predominantly Muslim, oil-rich country located on the island of Borneo, “to revoke this shocking Penal Code and ensure that the country’s laws are in strict compliance with international human rights law and standards.”

Homosexuality can be punished with the death penalty in 10 other countries: Yemen; Iran; Iraq; Mauritania; Nigeria; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; and the United Arab Emirates.

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