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US lawmakers call for suspension of trade talks with Brunei over Islamic laws

More than 100 members of Congress have signed a letter urging the US to force Brunei to abandon its draconian laws that call for amputation for thieves, and the stoning of gays and adulterers – or not be allowed to participate in a 12-country trade pact talk
Jame'asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque in Brunei
By JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One hundred and nineteen members of the House of Representatives signed a letter urging Secretary of State John Kerry and US Trade Representative Michael Froman to shun Brunei in talks on a Pacific free trade zone agreement unless it addresses its recently introduced Islamic laws that  threatens the human rights of groups including women and LGBTIs.

The Southeast Asian country in May implemented the first phase of the law that covers general offences such as not performing Friday prayers. It says it will ultimately punish sodomy and adultery with the death penalty, including by stoning.

The letter is the first public action by US lawmakers to pressure Brunei into abandoning its draconian Islamic laws.

In May, celebrities in Hollywood launched a boycott against properties with ties to the Sultan of Brunei, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air.

'We write to express our concern over the Government of Brunei Darussalam’s recently adopted penal code, which threatens the human rights of minority groups including women, religious minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and urge you to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations as a condition of the United States participating with them in any further Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations,' read the letter sent by Congressman Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison, Wisconsin and signed by 118 other congress members.

'Targeting LGBT individuals or religious minorities and opening the door for discrimination and violence against women is a threat we cannot overlook, and should trade agreements like the TPP go into effect with the participation of human rights violators, the United States would lose its leverage to provide economic pressure on countries to reverse unacceptable policies.'

Brunei and the United States and are among 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which aims to manage trade, promote development, and regionally integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.

Although the population of Brunei is just 420,000, its sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, is one of the world's richest men.

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