A NEW Sharia penal code, including death by stoning for the offences of adultery, apostasy, and gay sex, has been introduced in Brunei.
The code came into force on Wednesday and is mostly applicable to both Muslims and non-Muslims. It imposes the death penalty for insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammad, and contains punishments for printing, disseminating, importing, broadcasting, and distributing publications against Islamic beliefs. It criminalises the exposure of Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion other than Islam.
Stealing is punishable by the amputation of limbs, and lesbian sex by 100 lashes with a whip. It prohibits dressing in the attire associated with a different sex. Children who have reached puberty can receive the same punishments as adults.
On Tuesday, the Labour MP for Leeds North East, Fabian Hamilton, asked the Government to consider suspending Brunei from the Commonwealth, unless it abandoned the “barbaric proposals”.
The Foreign Minister, Mark Field, said that he had raised concerns with the Bruneian government last week, and said that the High Commissioner, Richard Lindsay, had “received assurances that both common law and the sharia penal code will operate in parallel for all nationals and residents, including British citizens, and be the primary means of administering justice in Brunei. We will continue to lobby to ensure that any British citizens in Brunei will be subject to common law rather than the penal code.”
The Chief Executive of Church Army, Mark Russell, wrote on Twitter this week that he had written to the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to “ask that the British Government make the strongest representations to Brunei that this law must be scrapped or Brunei be expelled from the Commonwealth.”
On Thursday, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, tweeted: “The Criminalisation of sex between two Consenting Adults is, in my book, repugnant to Natural Justice! Therefore, it is a Crime against the innocent! What the State of Brunei has just passed as”law” must NEVER be implemented in our Global Village! PLEASE GOD!!”
On Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the Government of Brunei to halt the introduction of a “draconian” code that would “enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach international human rights law”.
“Human rights and faith are not opposing forces — indeed, it is human interpretation that creates tensions,” she said.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, described the new code as “barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes. . . Governments around the world should make clear to Brunei’s sultan that there can be no business as usual so long as the threat of whipping, stoning or amputation remains on the books.”
The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, first published the code in October 2013, together with plans for a phased introduction. “I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger,” he said at a public address, the AFP news agency reported.
Open Doors reports that Christians make up 13.2 per cent of Brunei’s population. Brunei joins seven countries that punish consensual homosexual acts with the death penalty. The last execution for any crime was carried out in 1957.