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  • Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah attends the retreat session during the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on Nov. 18, 2018.

    Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah attends the retreat session during the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on Nov. 18, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 April 2019

Homosexuality is already illegal in Brunei -- punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In response to the news, #boycottBrunei is picking up steam on social media.

Brunei is violating human rights by imposing an extremist interpretation of Islamic Law that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality, the United Nations said Wednesday.

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "believes that human rights are to be upheld in relation to every person everywhere without any kind of discrimination," said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"The legislation approved is in clear violation with the principles expressed," he said. "So long as people face criminalization, bias and violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, we must redouble our efforts to end these violations."

"Everyone is entitled to live free and equal in dignity and rights," Dujarric said.

Though the death penalty is in effect Brunei, the last execution took place last century in 1957. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed that capital punishment may only be applied for murder or intentional killing after implementing due process according to international law.

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

“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.'" 

The country’s penal code has come under scrutiny by U.N. human rights panels in the past. Brunei has defended its right to implement the laws, elements of which were first adopted in 2014 and which have been rolled out in phases since then.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, is the world's second-longest reigning monarch and is prime minister of the oil-rich country. He ranks as one of the world's wealthiest people.

Protesters danced and waved rainbow flags outside the home of the Sultan of Brunei in London on Saturday in a small demonstration against the latter's decision to implement the death penalty -- by stoning -- for gay sex and adultery.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Brunei will become the seventh country to impose the death penalty for same-sex relationships. This new measure covers a variety of other crimes as well, including punishment for theft by amputation.

Lewis Cox, a United Kingdom Labour Party councilor, led the protest outside the Sultan's home in West London and strongly condemned the move by the Southeast Asian nation.

The announcement, and particularly the targeting of LGBT+ people, has sparked international outrage with politicians and celebrities calling on Brunei to immediately halt its plans.

Following the decision by the Sultan, shock and fear rippled through Brunei's gay community over the "medieval punishments."

"You wake up and realize that your neighbors, your family or even that nice old lady that sells prawn fritters by the side of the road doesn't think you're human, or is okay with stoning," a gay Bruneian man told BBC.

The Muslim-majority former British colony, with a population of around 400,000 people, defended its right to implement Islamic laws during a press release.

"The (Sharia) Law, apart from criminalizing and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race,” the statement read.

Some aspects of the laws will apply to non-Muslims as well. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, is the world's second-longest reigning monarch and is prime minister of the oil-rich country. He ranks as one of the world's wealthiest people.

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Brunei, which neighbors two Malaysian states on Borneo island, already enforces Islamic teachings more strictly than Malaysia and Indonesia, the other majority Muslim countries in Southeast Asia. The sale of alcohol is banned and evangelism by other religions is forbidden.

The country does not hold elections, but any discontent is assuaged with generous governmental policies, including zero taxes, subsidized housing, and free healthcare and education.

The expected implementation of strict Islamic laws has drawn widespread criticism. Politicians in Europe and the United States have attacked the plans and raised concerns with Brunei.

"Brunei's decision to implement Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code and associated penalties runs counter to its international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

"We continue to encourage Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015, and to sign, ratify and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Palladino said.

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney has called for a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei, including the Beverly Hills Hotel, because of the country's plans to impose the punishments.

Los Angeles city leaders have called for a boycott leveled at two hotels. Councilman Paul Koretz, L.A. Controller Ron Galperin, and head of Equality California Rick Zbur said in a news conference Tuesday that they will work to implement formal measures to discourage city residents and tourists from staying at the hotels.

“This is sickening and it’s unacceptable,” Galperin told reporters at the news conference. “When the gravity of this decree set in, it hit me hard, not just because I’m a member of the LGBT community… What kind of world do we live in where a country wants to put someone to death, wants to stone them just for being gay?”

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