Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah
Brunei will join a handful of countries that punish homosexuality with the death penalty when “cruel and inhuman” laws come into place next week.
The new provisions of a draconian sharia law Penal Code will come into effect from 3 April, and will include whipping, torture and death by stoning for same-sex acts and amputation of a hand and a foot for those found guilty of theft.
The southeast Asian kingdom began the implementation of an extreme interpretation of sharia law in 2014, despite international condemnation.
“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations. The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International.
Chhoa-Howard asserted that, “To legalise such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself. Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”
Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei under British colonial era laws with punishment of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Brunei is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is the prime minister, minister of defence, minister of finance, head of Islam, head of customs, head of the supreme commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the inspector general of the Royal Brunei Police Force.
The Sultan has been ranked among the wealthiest individuals in the world, worth an estimated $20 billion in 2008, and is said to live in a 1,800-room palace.
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts is currently imposed in 6 UN member States.
In 4 of them (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan) it is applied State-wide; in 2 (Somalia, Nigeria) it is implemented only in specific provinces. There are another 5 States (Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Mauritania) where such a penalty remains a possibility.