Brunei backs down on gay-sex death penalty after backlash

World | 7 May 2019

Brunei's sultan said a moratorium on capital punishment is in effect for new Shariah criminal laws including stoning people for gay sex and adultery that sparked international outcry.

Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable with up to 10 years in jail. The new laws say those found guilty of gay sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offense and a left foot on their second. The new laws apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in a speech to mark the start of Ramadan that he was aware of the "many questions and misperceptions" over the penalties under new sections of Brunei's Shariah Penal Code, but stressed that there should be no fear.

Brunei has had a "de facto moratorium" on capital punishment for over two decades.

"Both the common law and the Shariah law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country. They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the public as well as respecting the privacy of individuals," the sultan added.

But rights groups said the announcement did not go far enough. Matthew Woolfe, founder of The Brunei Project, said: "This announcement does nothing to address the many other human rights concerns about the [Shariah code]."

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