Brunei responds to human rights outrage

A Muslim man walks inside the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien mosque to perform the sunset prayer in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, 1 April 2019Image copyright
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Brunei said the aim of implementing Sharia, or Islamic law, was to “educate and deter”

Brunei’s foreign ministry has said implementing Sharia is about prevention rather than punishment, after intense criticism of its decision to implement the strict Islamic code.

Under the new laws, adultery and sex between men is punishable by stoning to death.

Brunei said there would be a high threshold for evidence in those cases, suggesting punishment would be rare.

It comes after the UN called the punishments “cruel and inhuman”.

Brunei has now sent a response from Dato Erywan, the minister of foreign affairs, to the UN criticism saying Sharia law “focuses more on prevention than punishment. Its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than to punish”.

It also said Sharia does not criminalise 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”, according to the statement.

The decision to implement the strict Islamic laws sparked global condemnation, with celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and others calling for a boycott of the Dorchester Collection group of hotels owned by Brunei’s investment agency.

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday he had spoken to the Bruneian foreign minister who had suggested that Sharia prosecutions were, in practice, unlikely.

The statement from Brunei’s foreign ministry comes in response to the United Nations’ criticism of the country’s decision to implement the laws on 3 April.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a letter on 1 April to the Brunei mission in Geneva warning that the planned implementation of the new laws contravened international human rights standards set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which was ratified by Brunei in 2006.

Brunei went ahead with the implementation of the new laws, under the continued phasing in of Sharia alongside common law, that made sex between men as well as adultery punishable by stoning to death.

The decision threw the tiny oil-rich South East Asian nation into the global spotlight and sparked international outrage.

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