Brunei Darussalam 2017/2018
Lack of transparency made independent monitoring of the human rights situation difficult. Phased amendments to the Shari’a Penal Code, if implemented, would provide for the death penalty and corporal punishment, such as caning and stoning which amount to torture and other ill-treatment, for a range of offences. The amendments would further restrict the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and discriminate against women.
Several amendments to the Shari’a Penal Code remained pending and were subject to phased implementation. Brunei completed phase one of the amendments which dealt with crimes punishable by prison sentences and fines. If implemented, phase two will cover crimes punishable by amputation; while phase three will deal with crimes carrying the penalty of stoning to death.
Freedom of expression
On 27 July, government employee Shahiran Sheriffudin bin Shahrani Muhammad was removed from his post and charged under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act for posting comments on Facebook deemed “offensive” to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Journalists and online activists continued to self-censor for fear of prosecution.
Shari’a Penal Code amendments included provisions which, if implemented, would further discriminate against women, including by criminalizing pregnancy outside marriage and forcing unmarried Muslim women to live in their guardian’s home.
Although abolitionist in practice, death by hanging was maintained as punishment for several offences including murder, terrorism and drug-related crimes. Penal Code amendments, if implemented during phase three, would impose death by stoning as punishment for offences including “adultery”, “sodomy” and rape. Stoning to death or 100 lashes, depending on the offender’s marital status, would be imposed on Muslims and non-Muslims who commit “adultery” with a Muslim.
Right to education
Stateless children and children who were not citizens of Brunei faced barriers to basic rights, including education. While primary education was free and accessible to citizens, stateless and non-citizen children had to apply for permission to enrol and were often required to pay monthly fees.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remained a criminal offence with “intercourse against the order of nature” punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment under Article 377 of the Penal Code. Amendments to the Penal Code would, if implemented, allow a mandatory punishment of death by stoning for consensual same-sex activity (see above).
Counter-terror and security
Suspects were detained without trial under the Internal Security Act. In February, four Indonesian nationals were detained under the law for alleged links with the armed group Islamic State (IS) and subsequently deported.