European Parliament condemns Brunei sharia laws

The European Parliament has condemned Brunei’s “retrograde” Islamic laws that punish gay sex and adultery with death by stoning, thieves with amputation and lesbian sex with whipping.

The sharia laws, introduced on April 3, prompted the European Union’s parliament to pass a resolution saying it “strongly condemns the entry into force of the retrograde Syariah Penal Code; [and] urges the Bruneian authorities to immediately repeal it”.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been subjected to international condemnation from rights groups and celebrities. 

This week an honorary degree awarded to the sultan by the University of Aberdeen was revoked.

MEPs, who face elections late next month that might inject a wave of populists into the chamber, also called on the European Union to consider asset freezes and visa bans on Brunei. 

They called for nine hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, including the Dorchester in London, Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris and Beverley Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, to be blacklisted.

UK Green MEP Jean Lambert said:  “Should the sultan and his allies fail to scrap these laws, we urge the EU and its member states to consider using every tool available to end this cruel treatment, including asset freezes and visa bans.

“Everyone has the right to live and love in peace, according to international human rights standards.

“We stand in solidarity with the LGBTI+ community, women, children and other vulnerable groups in Brunei, as well as the brave human rights defenders who are putting their lives on the line to stand up for their fellow citizens.”

The EU accused Brunei of “rude” and “abusive” lobbying ahead of the parliamentary vote. 

A representative of the Brunei government delivered letters to MEPs defending sharia law and asking for meetings.

“It’s a bit rude to be honest and a bit pushy,” said Bastien Valtille, an aide to French MEP Pascal Durand. “If we had known before what was inside the letter we wouldn’t have even accepted it.”

Brunei’s letter to MEPs said the law “does not criminalise nor has any intention to victimise a person’s status based on sexual orientation or belief including same-sex relations”.

“The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims particularly women,” it said.

A political adviser, Melanie Vogel, told the Green and European Free Alliance parliamentary bloc that Brunei was organising “abusive lobbying action right now … distributing those mind-blowing documents”.


Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is under fire. Picture credit: Misawa