19 April 2014


The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed "deep concern" about Brunei Darussalam's revised penal code, which introduces stoning to death (aka lapidation) as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature.

The revised code stipulates the death penalty for offences such as robbery, murder, blasphemy, adultery, sodomy, insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, and declaring oneself a prophet. The shift to sharia law is reflected in provision for caning and for removal of limbs for property offences.

It is unclear whether the code emulates Saudi Arabia, which has capital punishment for witchcraft, or the death penalty from apostasy from Islam (the latter being a criminal but not capital offence in parts of Malaysia).

A OHCHR spokesperson comments that
Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law.
We urge the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised penal code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards
Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited.
 One local legal scholar was reported last year as commenting
Let us not just look at the hand-cutting or the stoning or the caning per se, but let us also look at the conditions governing them. It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.
The OHCHR notes that
women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotyping against them, including among law enforcement and judicial officers. The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, to equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.