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Kaleidoscope Trust joins 50 organisations in condemning the recent implementation of the Brunei Penal Code

In response to the serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Brunei, Kaleidoscope Trust joins 50 partner organisations across 45 countries in condemning the recent and final implementation of the Brunei Darussalam Syariah Penal Code, which entered into force on 3 April, via a collective statement of concern and solidarity with the people of Brunei.


Originally proposed in 2014, and since attracting unprecedented criticism internationally, the penal code contains punishments including stoning, amputation and whipping, for 'crimes' such as apostasy, adultery and consensual same-sex acts. The penal code actively discriminates against LGBT people, women, children and other marginalised and vulnerable groups.


Any form of corporal punishment is forbidden in all circumstances under UN conventions and under international human rights law. As a Member State of the Commonwealth, Brunei is also a signatory of the Commonwealth Charter and has explicitly committed to upholding human rights as outlined in the Charter’s principles, which specifically refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.


The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) said:


‘The 50 member organisations of TCEN reiterate the call by civil society groups from across the region for the government of Brunei to stop the introduction of stoning to death as punishment for consensual sex; end all forms of corporal punishment; ratify the UN Convention against Torture; immediately end all forms of harmful, unevidenced and rights-violating activities, speech and rhetoric sponsored by the state that target LGBT+ persons; and repeal all laws that criminalise consensual sex acts between adults.


We also call on national governments within, and outside, the Commonwealth to urgently denounce the new Code and encourage the Brunei Government to remove these newly enshrined laws.’


Published on 9 April, the full statement can be read here.


On 13 April, the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) issued a statement 'express[ing] profound dismay' at Brunei’s implementation of the penal code endorsed by 36 countries.


Founded in 2016, the ERC aims to advance the human rights of LGBT persons and promotes inclusive development by engaging with members, non-member countries, civil society organisations and multilateral agencies.


The statement reads:


‘The new laws which came into effect on April 3, 2019, include a multitude of punishments including amputation of limbs, whipping and stoning to death for acts such as robbery, rape, adultery and engaging in same-sex sexual conduct.


'The statement also urges the Brunei government to 'repeal the new penalties, and to ensure that any measures that are introduced are consistent with Brunei’s international human rights obligations and commitments.'


In a joint motion for resolutions, the European Parliament has urged Bruneian authorities to 'immediately' repeal the new laws and 'strongly condemn the entry into force of the retrograde Sharia Penal Code.'


Since 2011, Kaleidoscope Trust has monitored the human rights situation in Brunei, particularly in respect of discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In recent weeks, we have intensified engagement with activists and organisations focused on Brunei and working in the wider region. We have also directly engaged the UK Government via the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, diplomatic partners, international institutions including the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), and parliamentarians including via the APPG on Global LGBT Rights. Via our role as Secretariat of The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), we continue to monitor developments, disseminate information and coordinate the collective response of network members globally, to ensure these grave developments result in an effective response and coordinated action.