Brunei suspends  penalty of stoning to death

Published May 11, 2019, 12:51 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

e-cartoon-may-11-2019After Sultan  Hassanal   Bolkiah of Brunei  Darussalam  announced in April that his country would be imposing  the penalty of death by stoning for sex between men,  the world reacted  with widespread criticism.

The  international  backlash  focused on the harsh penalty for gay sex under the Islamic penal  code, which went into effect in Brunei in April.  United Nations Secretary General  Antonio  Guterres  assailed the new Islamic laws as a violation of human rights.  Civil rights groups and world celebrities, among them  George  Clooney  and Ellen Degeneres,  called for a boycott of Brunei-controlled hotels around the world.  Several  multinational  companies ordered a ban on their employees using the sultan’s hotels, while some travel  companies stopped  promoting Brunei  as a travel destination.

It was in the middle of  the Lenten Season and Christians recalled the story in the Bible of Christ refusing to condemn a woman caught in adultery by Jewish Scribes and Pharisees, saying,   “He who is without sin among you,  let him cast the first stone at her.”

Last Sunday, Sultan Bolkiah announced the death penalty would not be imposed  on crimes in the Shariah  Penal Code Order (SPCO). He noted that the death penalty has not been applied  in cases under the Brunei’s common law for more  than two decades. It will also not be applied for cases under the new  Shariah penal code.

The sultan’s response to the world reaction to Brunei’s harsh new law was described as unusual, as he has  usually  ignored any criticism of his actions. He explained in his speech to the nation last Sunday that  “Both the common law and the Shariah  law  aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country. They are also crucial in protecting the morality and  decency  of  the  country  as  well  as  the  privacy  of individuals.”

The Shariah law with its harsh penalty of stoning to death for men having sex with other men thus remains  part  of  Brunei’s system of laws.  There is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Brunei,  so no one will be stoned to death at this time.

The sultan’s announcement was welcomed around the world. Brunei has not been carrying out any death penalty for two decades now, but the  penalty  remains in the law. Sultan Bolkiah could  order enforcement of the death penalty  at  any time and  so the worldwide condemnation of the harsh law continues.