Same-sex relations have long been a crime in Brunei, but the maximum punishment till now has been a 10-year prison sentence.
The United Nations human rights office has voiced deep concern about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam which stipulates the death penalty for numerous offences, including robbery, adultery, and insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, reports un.org.
It introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature, including those of same-sex relations.
Rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder are the other offences for which the death penalty could be applied under the revised code.
“Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“We urge the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised penal code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards,” he told a news conference in Geneva.
Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the Government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.
Among other measures, the revised code introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations.
“Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” stated Colville.
The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, Colville noted.
“The provisions of the revised penal code may encourage further violence and discrimination against women and also against people on the basis of sexual orientation,” he warned.
Muslim-majority Brunei gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1984. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields and is classified as a developed country.
The country is built on three pillars of Malay culture, Islamic religion, and the monarchy. Under Brunei’s constitution, His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah is the head of state with full executive authority and serves as Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defence Minister.