Politicians, human rights groups and celebrities have called on Brunei to abandon plans to introduce severe laws that would see LGBT people whipped or stoned to death.
Amid global criticism over the Islamic laws, which will take effect on Wednesday, the Brunei prime minister’s office defended the decision to introduce the death penalty for people found guilty of homosexual acts or adultery.
“The (Sharia) Law, apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race,” it said in a statement.
On Sunday, Elton John backed a call by George Clooney to boycott luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, a wealthy southeast Asian country.
The laws, as part of the country’s interpretation of Sharia Law, also introduce amputation of the hands or feet as punishment for robbery, according to an announcement by the country’s attorney general.
Brunei, a tiny former British colony of just over 420,000 people on the coast of Borneo, boast substantial oil-reserves.
Clooney has demanded a boycott of exclusive hotels owned by the Sultan Of Brunei, three of which are in the UK including London’s The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane.
John, who married husband David Furnish in 2014, has joined Clooney in calling for a boycott, saying he has “long refused” to stay at the hotels.
“I commend my friend, #GeorgeClooney, for taking a stand against the anti-gay discrimination and bigotry taking place in the nation of #Brunei – a place where gay people are brutalised, or worse – by boycotting the Sultan’s hotels.
“Our hearts go out to the good, hardworking employees of properties owned by the Sultan of Brunei, many of whom we know to be gay.
“We must send a message, however we can, that such treatment is unacceptable. That’s why David and I have long refused to stay at these hotels and will continue to do so. We hope you will join us in solidarity.”
The Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), through the Dorchester Collection, owns London’s The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane as well as Coworth Park in Berkshire.
Also in its portfolio of hotels, among the world’s most exclusive, are two of Hollywood’s best-known establishments, The Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills.
Clooney and John’s stand was echoed by fellow celebrities.
The US State Department said Brunei’s new punishments for same-sex sexual acts and adultery “appear inconsistent with international human rights obligations”.
“We strongly oppose human rights violations and abuses against LGBTI persons, including violence, the criminalisation of LGBTI status or conduct, and serious forms of discrimination,” a representative said in statement said.
South Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong echoed this view, saying Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code would be in breach of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
“Labor is deeply concerned by the Brunei government’s plans to implement new laws that would see adultery and homosexual acts between consenting adults punishable by death,” she tweeted.
Former US Vice President Joe Biden said Brunei’s decision is “appalling and immoral”.
“Every single person on earth is entitled to be treated with dignity and to live without fear. There is no excuse – not culture, not tradition – for this kind of hate and inhumanity.”
Brunei researcher at Amnesty International Rachel Chhoa-Howard said Brunei “must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations”.
“The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”