In a letter to the United Nations, foreign minister Erywan Yusof called for an understanding of human rights in “the national context” and for respect for Brunei’s sovereignty.
The letter says the law, which also applies to children and foreigners, would prevent homosexual activity rather than punish it. “We reaffirm that the syariah criminal law system focuses more on prevention than punishment,” he argued. “Its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than punish.”
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier said the planned implementation of the new laws contravened the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was ratified by Brunei in 2006.
Homosexuality used to carry up to 10 years in prison but now those found guilty of having gay or adulterous sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Thieves may have their right hands or left feet amputated.
Non-Muslims can be punished if they are caught having sex with a Muslim.
The letter said an “extremely high evidentiary threshold” was required, meaning two or more men of “high moral standing” must witness the “crime”.
Three men were thrown out of Brunei-owned Dorchester Hotel in London after unfurling banners and shouting “Standing with our brothers and sisters”.
The Mayfair establishment is part of the Dorchester Collection of nine hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. They have been the focus of protests since the law was announced.
A spokeswoman for the hotel group said: “Our values are far removed from the politics of ownership.”
Stephen Cockburn at Amnesty International said: “To legalise torture is sickening and callous in any circumstance. To do so as a preventive measure is also reckless.
“Likewise, to defend the threat of amputation and stoning as aiming to ‘rehabilitate and nurture’ is plainly absurd. Merely enacting such laws creates a toxic and threatening environment. The Brunei authorities must refrain from implementing them, and must take necessary steps to repeal this unacceptable legislation, and bring it in line with international human rights laws and standards.”
The UK is now under pressure to remove Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s honorary military titles.
Stephen Evans of the National Secular Society said: “Stripping the sultan of the honours they [the UK armed forces] have bestowed upon him would send out the important message that they do not wish to be in any way associated with this medieval barbarism.”
Brunei’s GDP is largely dependent on fossil fuels. Picture credit: Public Domain