Brunei Darussalam 2016/2017
Lack of transparency made independent monitoring of the human rights situation difficult. The phased implementation of the amended Penal Code continued. The Code, which seeks to impose Shari’a law, provides for the death penalty as well as corporal punishment that amount to torture and other ill-treatment for a range of offences. It also contains provisions which discriminate against women. The Shari’a legislation completed its first phase of implementation. Offences that are punishable with whipping or death sentence such as false claims (Article 206), deriding verses of the Qur’an or Hadith by non-Muslims (Article 111), and abetting or attempt to abet, had not been enforced. In February, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the government to repeal Penal Code amendments which would impose the death penalty and corporal punishment on children; and to raise the minimum age for marriage.
Although abolitionist in practice, death by hanging was maintained as punishment for a number of offences including murder, terrorism and drug-related crimes. The amended Penal Code provided for punishment of death by stoning for both Muslims and religious minorities for crimes including “adultery”, “sodomy”, rape, blasphemy and murder.
Torture and other ill-treatment
The staged implementation of the amended Penal Code, which began in 2014, provides for whipping or amputation for crimes such as robbery and theft. Caning was regularly used as a punishment for offences including those related to immigration.
Freedom of expression
A lack of free and independent media continued. In November, The Brunei Times was shut down after it published a politically sensitive article. The act of “printing, disseminating, importing, broadcasting, and distributing publications contrary to Sharia law” constituted a crime for both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Freedom of religion
Muslims as well as religious minorities continued to face restrictions on their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Crimes including blasphemy, insulting the Hadith and any verses of the Qur’an, declaring oneself a prophet or an apostate (for Muslims) were punishable by death under the law.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
Consensual same-sex sexual activity was a criminal offence with “intercourse against the order of nature” punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The amended Penal Code would make punishment of stoning to death for “sodomy” mandatory. Article 198 cites “Man posing as woman or vice versa” as a crime. In August, a man was arrested for “cross-dressing and improper conduct”. Punishment on conviction included a fine of BN$1,000 (approx. US$730) or three months’ imprisonment, or both.
Counter-terror and security
Individuals continued to be arrested under the Internal Security Act which allows authorities to detain suspects without trial for indefinitely renewable two-year periods.