Following global condemnation, Brunei has announced it will not enforce the death penalty as a punishment for gay sex.
The small country in Southeast Asia was met with a great deal of criticism after announcing on 3 April that it will uphold Sharia Law. With this, they would be punishing sodomy, adultery, and rape with death, including by stoning. Numerous corporations, governments, rights groups, and high-profile individuals like Richard Branson, Sir Elton John, and George Clooney have come out against Brunei’s new law.
Now, the nation’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has backtracked. He stated that the death penalty would not be enforced in the implementation of the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO).
Crimes such as trafficking and premeditated murder are already punished by the death penalty in Brunei. However, the country has not carried out an execution since the 1990s, according to the Independent. Interestingly, a UN report states that the nation hasn’t executed anyone since 1957.
‘I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions [sic] with regard to the implementation of the SPCO. However, we believe that once these have been cleared, the merit of the law will be evident,’ Sultan Bolkiah said in a statement ahead of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.
‘As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO, which provides a wider scope for remission.’
In a unique turn of events, the Sultan’s office released a full English translation of his speech. This is not something the nation of Brunei commonly does.
‘Both the common law and the Syariah [sic] law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country,’ the Sultan said. ‘They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the country as well as the privacy of individuals.’
The Independent reports that Brunei has signed the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, it has not yet been ratified in the nation.
Under internationally-recognized human rights law, all forms of corporal punishment (including stoning, whipping, and amputation) are barred.