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Labour urges UK government to take action over Brunei’s new extreme laws

Labour urges UK government to take action over Brunei’s new extreme laws

Emily Thornberry Labour

Labour has called for Brunei to be thrown out of the Commonwealth unless the country repeals its extreme new laws.

Brunei implemented the Sharia Penal Code on Wednesday (3 April) which carries extreme laws, such as death by stoning for male homosexual sex and the amputation of limbs for theft.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said that unless the country revokes the SPC, it should be ‘chucked out’ of the Commonwealth.

Foreign secretary Jermery Hunt said that Brunei’s SPC laws had been met with ‘deep UK opposition’.

However, Hunt said that ‘threatening to kick countries out of the Commonwealth’ was not a good way to encourage Brunei to rethink its penal code, BBC News reports.

The Southeast Asian nation has been met with widespread international condemnation for the past two weeks over the SPC laws.

Labour calls for action amid protests and boycotts  

Thornberry’s comments came amid protests against Brunei linked businesses over the laws.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the Brunei-owned Dorchester hotel in London on Saturday (6 April).

‘We want to send a message to the British government,’ veteran human rights activist Peter Tatchell told journalists at the protest.

‘We want the British government and all governments over the world to sever diplomatic ties. We’re also appealing to the Royal family.’

There have been similar protests US, with various celebrities, including George Clooney, Elton John, and Ellen DeGeneres, calling for the boycott of Brunei-linked businesses.

A number of political bodies and human rights groups have expressed alarm over the laws, with many calling on the Bruneian government to reconsider their implementation.

Earlier this week, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field said it was ‘appalling’ that such laws were being introduced in the 21st Century.

‘We consider it illegal under international human rights law,’ Field said. ‘We strongly support the rights of the LGBT people here and the world.’

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office described Brunei’s laws as ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading’.

However, the statement said that ‘rather than threatening to kick countries out of the Commonwealth, we believe the best way to make progress and encourage Brunei to uphold its international human rights obligations is via a constructive dialogue on this issue’.

Strong British ties

Prior to the international outcry over the SPC laws, Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo, had maintained relative obscurity for years.

The country was a British colony until 1957 and has since maintained close ties to the UK, with around 2,000 Gurkhas from the British Army  currently stationed there.

The Bruneian government first announced that the adoption of the SPC in three stages in 2014, though the latter two stages experienced significant holdups.

Similar boycotts and protests were held in 2014 by Hollywood celebrities and public figures.

In March, Gay Star News broke the news that Brunei was quietly rushing through the final implementation of the SPC, which came into effect earlier this week.

The laws will only apply to Muslims which account for two-thirds of Brunei’s population of around 420,000.