Brunei's Harsh New Islamic Laws Spark Global Criticism

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2019-04-03

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Newly enacted Islamic laws governing gay sex and adultery in Brunei have sparked international outcry.

The laws, which took effect Wednesday, will allow those convicted of adultery and homosexuality to be stoned to death.

The harsh penalties have been included in the Southeast Asian country's Sharia Penal Code, which was instituted in 2014 by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

The new laws apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.

Under the laws, thieves could have their right hand amputated on their first offense and their left foot on their second.

The codes are designed to bolster the influence of Islam in the Muslim-majority country of about 430,000 people.

Celebrities such as Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and George Clooney have denounced the new laws and have helped rally support for a boycott of nine hotels in the United States and Europe with ties to Hassanal.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France are continuing to urge the oil-rich country to reverse the enactment of the new laws.

U.S. Secretary of State Deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said Brunei's decision "runs counter to its international human rights obligations" and that the U.S. "strongly opposes violence, criminalization and discrimination targeting vulnerable groups." He called on the country to implement the U.N.'s Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said, "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."

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson also condemned Hassanal's action, saying, "Brunei's new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that should not even be crimes."

Amnesty International's Rachel Chhoa-Howard denounced the new laws as "vicious" and called on the global community to condemn them.