Canada-led rights coalition slams Brunei death penalty for gay sex

Brunei first introduced Islamic criminal law in 2014. (AFP pic)

OTTAWA: More than 30 countries led by Canada have called on Brunei to repeal its newly-adopted death penalty for gay sex and other harsh punishments for robbery, rape and adultery.

In a weekend statement, the intergovernmental Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) expressed “profound dismay” that the sultanate adopted the “extreme penalties” among several harsh new sharia laws.

“We urge the government of Brunei 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,” it said.

A tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical Borneo island – ruled by the all-powerful Sultan Hassanal – came fully into force last Wednesday after several years of delay.

It has sparked a storm of global criticism from politicians, celebrities and rights groups.

The ERC, currently co-chaired by Canada, was launched in 2016 at an LGBT rights conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, to promote international equal rights for all.

Its declaration on Brunei was signed by Britain, France and several other European powers, the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Israel and a handful of Latin American nations, including Uruguay and Mexico.

The group said the penalties introduced by the southeast Asian country have “a detrimental impact” on vulnerable groups in Brunei, including LGBT people, women and children.

The measures, it said, exacerbate their marginalisation and “increase the risk that they will be exposed to discrimination, persecution and violence, even if they are not prosecuted for having violated the Code.”