Updated: 04/12/2014 01:01 | By Agence France-Presse

UN criticises Brunei over tough new Islamic law

The UN human rights office on Friday criticised Brunei's planned introduction of the death penalty for a raft of new offences, as part of a shift to harsh Islamic punishments in the oil-rich sultanate.


UN criticises Brunei over tough new Islamic law

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in Tokyo on December 14, 2013 - by Toru Hanai

"We are deeply concerned about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam, due to come into force later this month, which stipulates the death penalty for numerous offences," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

He told reporters these offences include rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, but also crimes such as robbery and murder. 

The death sentence could also be imposed for defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, he said.

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law," he added.

Brunei has not carried out any executions since 1957, but Colville said that rather than adding new capital crimes to its books, the sultanate should be working to abolish the death penalty outright.

Brunei's all-powerful Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced last October that the country would phase in Islamic sharia law punishments such as flogging and death by stoning.

The new criminal code, expected to enter into force on April 22, also introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations. 

Colville said that international law classified stoning as "torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", meaning it is banned under global human rights treaties.

UN studies have shown that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to entrenched discrimination and stereotyping in the justice system, he noted.

Criminalising consensual sex between adults, let alone applying the death penalty for it, breaches a series of rights, while the new code also violates freedom of religion, opinion and expression, Colville added.

Brunei practices a more conservative form of Islam than neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, banning the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restricting other religions.

The sultan has advocated the strengthening of Islam in the country, against what he calls potentially harmful outside influences, recently calling his Islamic monarchy a "firewall" against globalisation.

Officials have previously said sharia cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion applying it.

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn

NEWS VIDEOS

MORE NEWS VIDEOS

facebook recommendations

LIVE NEWS RADIO STREAMING

  • 938 Live

    938LIVE is Singapore's only English news and talk station which transmits round the clock with an engaging and enticing spread of programmes on current affairs, health, business and lifestyle as well as news every half hour until midnight.

  • Capital 958


    95.8FM城市频道的前身是"第三广播网"。上个世纪30年代末,新加坡就有中文广播,一路走来经过不少政治,社会局势的改变,中文广播在本地一直扮演举足轻重的角色。