|Brunei Update | June 6, 2019
Authors: Kim Yaeger and Jordan Fox
|THE COUNCIL'S TAKE|
After the initial implementation of Syariah law in 2014, Brunei has now implemented the second and third phase which include the punishment of homosexual acts or adultery by stoning to death or 100 lashes. The quiet announcement last December that the law would be fully enacted on April 3 of 2019 has led to public outcries from organizations like the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The U.S. State Department Spokesman released a statement asserting that Brunei’s actions “run counter to its international human rights obligations” and encouraged Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A press release from the Prime Minister’s office responded to the outcry saying that that implementing Syariah Law is about the prevention of acts that are against the teachings of Islam but will also “respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.” Facing public backlash, the Sultan made a televised speech stating that Brunei has “practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under common law”, which will also be applied to cases under Syariah penal code. He also vowed to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture. According to Foreign Affairs, Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, punishments under the Syariah penal code, require large amounts of evidence to convict and is highly unlikely given that Syariah law goes “beyond reasonable doubt”, and confessions are encouraged to be withdrawn at any time.
On May 2nd, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar introduced the Brunei Human Rights Act which would sanction the officials involved in the implementation of the new penal code, barring them from traveling to or doing business with the United States. Additionally, it would take similar steps against officials in other countries looking to impose these types of laws, and report on refugees leaving the country because of the code. The Brunei Embassy responded stating that the resolutions put forth by Omar do not reflect the realities of Brunei, backed by Brunei’s human rights track record, people-centered policies, women’s empowerment and equal opportunities policies, and longstanding relationship with the United States. Specifically, Brunei’s human rights track record over the past few decades has included no prosecution for apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, or homosexuality, zero gun deaths, and a very low crime rate that they intend to continue under the new phases. The document also stresses their achievements like a low poverty level, green environment, no history of LGBTQ hate crimes or terrorism, one of the highest standards of living, a 96% literacy rate, wage equality, equal opportunities for women in their society, prevalence of women in different fields, and a free high-quality health care system. Brunei has also had a longstanding relationship with the United States underpinned by the 170 year-old Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation. They are a crucial partner in counter-terrorism and maritime security in the South China Sea.
|IN THIS UPDATE|
|Multilateral Trade Agreements
Two big trade pacts offer antidote to tension, Brunei minister says Nikkei Asian Review 30th May 2019
Joint Force Commander Visit Highlights Brunei-Philippines Military Relations The Diplomat 5th Jun 2019
Navy Chief Introductory Visit Puts Brunei-Singapore Relations Into Focus The Diplomat 22nd May 2019
New association mulled to help Brunei, Malaysia businesses seek more trade opportunities The Scoop 14th May 2019
HM: Stand united, show the world we are peaceful The Scoop 5th Jun 2019
Brunei scores top marks in resilience, economic ties and resources Borneo Bulletin 2nd Jun 2019
Local businesses pledge to reduce single-use plastics The Scoop 27th May 2019
HRW urges Brunei to repeal Sharia law UPI 23rd May 2019
Competition Order To Be Enforced On 1st January 2020 Brunei Direct 6th Jun 2019
Omar introduces bill sanctioning Brunei over anti-homosexuality law TheHill 16th May 2019
What's Behind Brunei's New Defense White Paper Talk? The Diplomat 20th May 2019
Is Islamic tourism Brunei’s answer? The ASEAN Post 16th May 2019
National ICT standardisation network vital for Brunei, says minister Borneo Bulletin 17th May 2019