Brunei Halts Plans To Enforce Death Penalty For Same-Sex Activity Following Global Outcry

The sultan extended a moratorium on the death penalty to the new laws introduced on 3 April.

Cover image via EPA & AP

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has backtracked on laws introduced last month that would have made sex between men, adultery, and rape punishable by death following global backlash

A protest outside The Dorchester Hotel in London, owned by the Bruneian sultan.

Image via AP

On Sunday, 5 May, the sultan extended a moratorium, which is a temporary suspension, on the death penalty to the new laws.

He said that the death penalty would not be imposed in the implementation of the Shariah Penal Code Order (SPCO), according to BBC.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.

Image via EPA

The announcement was Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's first public comments on the new penal code since it fully entered into force on 3 April

Image via SCMP/Reuters

In a televised address, the sultan said he was aware there had been "many questions and misperceptions" regarding the implementation of the legislation, Al Jazeera reported.

"As evident for more than two decades, we have practised a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common lawThis will also be applied to cases under the [Islamic penal code], which provides a wider scope for remission," he added.

While saying that the moratorium on the death penalty would be applied, he defended the new rules and said that their "merit" would become clear.

The small Southeast Asian country first introduced Shariah law in 2014, giving it a dual legal system with both Shariah and Common Law

Under the laws introduced last month, offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery, and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad carry the maximum penalty of death.

Image via AFP

Certain crimes already commanded the death penalty in Brunei, including premeditated murder and drug trafficking. However, no executions have been carried out since the 1990s.

The sultan's comments during his announcement suggested that this will not change with the introduction of the new harsh laws.

Brunei's back-pedalling follows global uproar, including LGBTQ protests and boycotts of Brunei-owned hotels last month:

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