Metro Weekly

George Clooney, Elton John urging hotel boycott to protest Brunei’s anti-gay stoning law

Celebrities urge consumers not to allow their money to be used to bolster countries that commit human rights abuses

George Clooney – Photo: GabboT, via Wikimedia.

Actor George Clooney and musician Elton John are throwing their weight behind a boycott of nine luxury hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency over Brunei’s implementation of death by stoning as punishment for same-sex relations.

The country’s new penal code is slated to take effect on April 3. First announced in 2013, the new measures were slow-walked for years due to opposition from human rights groups, and questions about the details of how punishments for violations of the law would be carried out.

The law requires the death penalty for rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery, or insulting or defaming the prophet Muhammad. Women who have abortions will be publicly flogged, thieves have their hands amputated, and it will be illegal to expose Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion besides Islam, reports The Guardian.

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.”

The Brunei-owned hotels he specifically targets are: the London-based Dorchester and 45 Park Lane hotels; the Coworth Park hotel in Ascot, in the United Kingdom; Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris; Hotel Eden in Rome, Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan; and The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air, both located in greater Los Angeles.

Clooney noted that he has stayed at many of the hotels owned by Brunei, but said he was unaware of who owned them. And, he argues, even though a boycott is unlikely to change the country’s laws, it can serve as a statement by consumers that they do not want their money being used to support anti-LGBTQ laws.

“A couple of years ago two of those hotels in Los Angeles, The Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills Hotel, were boycotted by many of us for Brunei’s treatment of the gay community,” Clooney writes. “It was effective to a point. We cancelled a big fundraiser for the Motion Picture Retirement Home that we’d hosted at the Beverly Hills Hotel for years. Lots of individuals and companies did the same. But like all good intentions when the white heat of outrage moves on to the hundred other reasons to be outraged, the focus dies down and slowly these hotels get back to the business of business. And the Brunei Investment Agency counts on that. 

“I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them,” he adds. “But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”

Elton John – Photo: Mustafa Doğan Özçelik, via Wikimedia.

Grammy-winning singer Elton John has joined Clooney in calling for a boycott of the hotels.

“I believe that love is love and being able to love as we choose is a basic human right,” he said in a statement. “Wherever we go, my husband David and I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect — as do each and every one of the millions of LGBTQ+ people around the world.

“Discrimination on the basis of sexuality is plain wrong and has no place in any society,” he added. “That’s why I commend my friend, George Clooney, for taking a stand and calling out the anti-gay discrimination and bigotry now being enshrined in law in the nation of Brunei, a place where gay people are brutalized or worse.”

Human rights group Amnesty International has denounced the new Sharia-inspired penalties, calling them “cruel and inhuman.”

“Pending provisions in Brunei’s Penal Code would allow stoning and amputation as punishments — including for children, to name only their most heinous aspects,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a researcher at Amnesty International with expertise on Brunei, said in a statement.

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

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has also criticized the adoption of the stricter penal code.

She also urged legal authorities within the country to uphold its de facto moratorium on the death penalty.

“I appeal to the government to stop the entry into force of this draconian new penal code, which would mark a serious setback for human rights protections for the people of Brunei if implemented,” she said in a statement.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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