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US State Dept ‘concerned’ by Brunei’s move to implement extreme laws

US State Dept ‘concerned’ by Brunei’s move to implement extreme laws

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei

The US State Department has said it is ‘concerned’ about Brunei’s moves to implement the Sharia Penal Code (SPC).

The SPC laws carry extreme sentences, such as punishing sodomy or adultery with death by stoning, and the amputation of limbs for theft.

Last week, Gay Star News broke the news that Brunei was quietly rushing to implement the SPC by Wednesday, 3 April.

However, the US government has refused to fully condemn Brunei for their plans to implement such extreme laws.

Numerous human rights groups and political bodies have expressed alarm over the move, with Amnesty describing the punishments as ‘heinous’.

The European Union (EU) and the British government have both urged Brunei to abandon implementation of the laws.

On Thursday (28 March), actor and director George Clooney wrote an op-ed in Deadline calling for the boycott of nine hotels with links to Brunei.

‘Inconsistent with international human rights obligations’

After repeated requests for comment by The Daily Beast, the State Department released a statement on Brunei’s upcoming adoption of the SPC.

‘The United States is concerned with Brunei’s decision to implement Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code,’ the statement reads.

‘Some of the punishments in the law appear inconsistent with international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

‘We have encouraged Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015, and to sign, ratify, and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’

Despite releasing the statement addressing Bruneian government’s actions, the State Department has not commented directly on the most extreme laws, such as stoning to death, nor has the US government condemned Brunei for their move to implement the SPC.

A work in progress since 2014

The Sultan of Brunei, the country’s absolute ruler, first announced that the SPC would be implemented in three stages in 2014.

While the first stage of the legal reforms were implemented with relative ease, the latter two stages experienced numerous holdups.

However, the Bruneian Attorney General’s Chambers website officially posted plans to fast-track implementation of the SPC on 29 December 2018.

There was no official announcement by the Bruneian government of the move, and it was not reported by the domestic press.

In an interview with Gay Star News last week, Matthew Woolfe, founder and director of LGBTI group The Brunei Project, said he believed the Bruneian government was ‘trying to fly under the radar with the final implementation’.

If successfully implemented, the laws will only apply to Muslims in the tiny oil-rich nation of around 430,000 people.