UN urges Brunei to stop death-by-stoning penalty

NEW YORK, UN Human Rights' Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on Monday made an appeal to the Bruneian Government to stop the proposed changes to Brunei's penal code to incorporate harsher forms of punishment, including death by stoning.

The laws, strict interpretation of Islamic law, including death by stoning, against offenders of rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslim citizens are set to come into force on Wednesday.

The UN call came on the heels of Oscar-winning Hollywood star George Clooney voicing his dismay over the laws. He has urged the public to boycott the hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Clooney's boycott call against nine hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei was made in an op-ed published Thursday by the industry website Deadline.

Some of the world's finest hotels that could face boycott include The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane and Coworth Park in England; the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air in the U.S.; Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in France; Hotel Eden and Hotel Principe di Savoia in Italy.

Clooney recalled that many in Hollywood had boycotted the Los Angeles-area hotels in 2014 because of Brunei's mistreatment of the LGBTQ community; indeed, a fundraiser for the Motion Picture Retirement Home held at the Beverly Hills Hotel for years, was cancelled.

Brunei, which has a population of only half a million, is one of the world's richest nations thanks to its oil and natural gas production.

Following the call by Clooney and other prominent figures to boycott Brunei's properties, Bachelet said these revisions would enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach international human rights law.

According to Bachelet's statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, the death penalty would in theory be applicable for offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy; extramarital sexual relations for Muslim citizens.

Public flogging as a punishment for abortion would also apply, as well as amputation for theft.

Other changes include making it a criminal offence to expose Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion other than Islam, Bachelet said, calling them a serious setback for human rights protections in the Southeast Asian State. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah has been Brunei's ruler for more than 50 years.

Although the death penalty is already on the statute books in Brunei, the last execution there was carried out in 1957, according to UN sources. Nonetheless, Bachelet emphasized that under international law, capital punishment may only be applied for murder or intentional killing, after a trial held according to due process.

I urge Brunei to maintain its de facto moratorium on the use of capital punishment, she said, underlining that human rights and faith are not opposing forces.

She noted: No judiciary in the world can claim to be mistake-free, and evidence shows that the death penalty is disproportionately applied against people who are already vulnerable, with a high risk of miscarriages of justice.

Echoing concerns about the country's penal code voiced by UN human rights panels in the past, Bachelet highlighted the possible encouragement of violence and discrimination against women, including on the basis of their sexual orientation, and against religious minorities in Brunei.

Any religion-based legislation must not violate human rights, including the rights of those belonging to the majority religion, as well as of religious minorities and non-believers, Bachelet said.

It is vital that the Government, religious authorities and a wide range of civil society actors work jointly to uphold human dignity and equality for all, the High Commissioner added. My Office stands ready to assist the Government of Brunei, using the constructive approach laid out by the faith-based framework of the Beirut Declaration on Faith for Rights.

Source: NAM News Network

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