Brunei, a small nation on the island of Borneo, shocked the international community when details emerged of its new Penal Code, under which same-sex activity will be punished with whipping or death by stoning. Now, Amnesty International has spoken out against the new laws.
Newly-implemented sections of the Brunei Darussalam Syariah Penal Code, due to come into force on 3 April 2019, will introduce a number of corporal punishments prohibited by international human rights law. Robbery will be punished with amputation, and the same punishments dealt out to adult offenders will also apply to children.
While Brunei law currently allows capital punishment, the death penalty is usually not applied in practice. One new death sentence was imposed in 2017, for a drug-related offence. The new Penal Code, however, could make executions more commonplace.
Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Brunei Researcher, has said “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.
“Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”
Under international human rights law, corporal punishment in all its forms, including stoning, amputation or whipping, constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, which is prohibited in all circumstances. Brunei has signed but not yet ratified the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Amnesty expressed grave concerns over changes to the Penal Code when they were first proposed in 2014, with the introduction of Islamic criminal law in Brunei. At that time, the nation introduced legal punishments for pregnancy outside marriage and made homosexuality punishable with a prison sentence – though it held off on introducing the death penalty, due to massive international backlash.
This time, Manila-based human rights groups the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and OutRight Action International have suggested, Brunei authorities are trying to fly under the radar with a discreet introduction of the new laws.
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