The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) condemns the recent implementation of the Brunei Darussalam Syariah Penal Code, which entered into force on 3 April.
We are deeply concerned with the far-reaching consequences of the Code for all people in Brunei. The Code prescribes punishments including stoning, amputation and whipping, for “crimes” such as apostasy, adultery and consensual sex between adults of the same gender or sex. Not only are these punishments dehumanising and violent, but the new provisions within the Code affect the most vulnerable parts of the population, including women, children, and LGBT+ people. Express and systemic discrimination is now embedded in the country’s legal structure.
Matthew Wolfe, a founder of independent human rights initiative The Brunei Project, stated, “with punishments as extreme as whippings and death by stoning, along with fines and jail terms, for those found guilty of consensual sexual activity between members of the same sex, Brunei’s LGBT+ community is among the most at risk groups from the implementation of Sharia law.”
Additionally, the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, a network of human rights activists from Southeast Asia, have released a statement signed by over 130 organisations that strongly calls for the government of Brunei to halt implementation of the Code, as well as to uphold their international and regional human rights obligations.
Commenting on the current situation, Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland strongly urged the Government of Brunei to reconsider the ruling, highlighting that the new Code “will potentially bring into effect cruel and inhuman punishments which contravene international human rights law and standards.”
Any form of corporal punishment is forbidden in all circumstances under UN Conventions and under international human rights law. As a Member State of the Commonwealth, Brunei is also a signatory of the Commonwealth Charter and has explicitly committed to upholding human rights as outlined in the Charter’s principles, which specifically refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.
Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Chair of The Commonwealth Equality Network and Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND Sri Lanka, stated:
“Within the Commonwealth Charter itself, States declare that they are ‘committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments’. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. Responsibility for adhering to these international human rights values and standards, as well as to customary international law, applies to all Commonwealth Member States, including Brunei.”
The 50 member organisations of TCEN reiterate the call by civil society groups from across the region for the government of Brunei to stop the introduction of stoning to death as punishment for consensual sex; end all forms of corporal punishment; ratify the UN Convention against Torture; immediately end all forms of harmful, unevidenced and rights-violating activities, speech and rhetoric sponsored by the state that target LGBT+ persons; and repeal all laws that criminalise consensual sex acts between adults.
We also call on national governments within, and outside, the Commonwealth to urgently denounce the new Code and encourage the Brunei Government to remove these newly enshrined laws.