Metro Weekly

Brunei defends stoning gay people to death, claiming convictions will be rare

Country demanded "respect and understanding" in a letter to the European Union

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah of Brunei — Photo: United Nations Photo / Cia Pak

Brunei has demanded ‘tolerance and respect’ from the European Union amid outcry over a new law that mandates death by stoning for gay sex.

Part of the country’s new Sharia Penal Code, introduced at the start of April, the new law offers harsh punishments for a number of offenses, including stoning to death for same-sex relations, as well as for rape, adultery, robbery, or insulting or defaming the prophet Muhammad.

But in a letter to the European parliament, Brunei claims such convictions will be rare because the law requires men of “high moral standing and piety” to be witnesses, the Guardian reports.

Asking the EU for “tolerance, respect and understanding” over a law that would see gay people crushed to death with stones just for having sex, Brunei said the penal code was part of an effort to “safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage.”

Brunei justified the law by arguing a conviction requires an “extremely high evidentiary threshold, requiring no less than two or four men of high moral standing and piety as witnesses,” in addition to “a very high standard of proof of ‘no doubt at all’ for all aspects, which goes further than the common law standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt.'”

The country’s mission to the EU claimed that “standards of piety of the male witness” mean that it will be “extremely difficult to find one in this day and age, to the extent that convictions…may solely rest on confessions of the offender.”

Unfortunately for Brunei, their attempts to sugar coat the death penalty fell on deaf ears in the European parliament, where lawmakers backed a resolution condemning the South East Asian nation for “the entry into force of the retrograde sharia penal code.”

Lawmakers also urged the wider European Union to freeze Brunei’s assets, ban visas, and blacklist nine hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei’s investment agency — including the Beverly Hills Hotel and The Bel Air in Los Angeles.

A number of celebrities have urged boycotts of the Brunei Investment Agency-owned properties, including Ellen DeGeneres, George Clooney, and Elton John.

Writing in a guest column for Deadline, Clooney argued that a boycott of the hotels is important in order to keep money from flowing “directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”

And last week the University of Aberdeen in Scotland revoked an honorary diploma bestowed to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah of Brunei in 1995.

Calling the move “unprecedented,” University of Aberdeen Principal George Boyne criticized Brunei’s “severely punitive anti-LGBT laws.”

“While it is deeply regrettable to be in this position, which is unprecedented for the University of Aberdeen, I fully support the decision,” Boyne said. “The University of Aberdeen is proud of our foundational purpose of being open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others. The introduction by the Sultan of the new Penal Code is contrary to our strong commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion.”

Earlier this month, Amnesty International slammed the new penal code — based on Islamic law — for its “vicious” sentences, which also include punishments such as limb amputation for anyone convicted of theft.

“To legalize such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei researcher at Amnesty International, told the Associated Press, adding that some of the offenses “should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”

“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments and revise its penal code in compliance with its human rights obligations,” Chhoa-Howard said. “The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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