Brunei to impose death by stoning for gay sex and adultery

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Adultery and gay sex in Brunei will be subject to death by stoning from next week, authorities said, under a strict Syariah law that has been on hold for four years amid heavy criticism.

Rights groups reacted in horror on Wednesday (March 27) to the latest hardline move from the resource-rich nation on Borneo, which practises a stricter brand of Islam than its neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia.

The tiny sultanate will implement the harsh new penal code - which also prescribes amputation of a hand and foot for theft - next Wednesday.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Brunei but it will now become a capital offence. The law applies to only Muslims.

The new penalty for theft is amputation of the right hand for a first offence, and the left foot for a second offence.

Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Brunei to "immediately halt" implementing the new penalties.

"To legalise such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself," Brunei researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said in a statement. "Some of the potential 'offences' should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender," she said.

Ty Cobb, director of US-based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, called the legislation "state-sponsored torture and murder of LGBTQ people,” adding it was “crucial” that the international community demand that the country "stop these barbaric changes that threaten the lives of Brunei citizens.”

A notice on Brunei's Attorney General's Chambers dated Dec 29 last year said the provisions will take effect on April 3.

Brunei first announced the measures in 2013 but implementation has been delayed as officials worked out the practical details and in the teeth of opposition by rights groups.

Under a shift towards hardline Islamic law, Brunei in 2015 banned excessive Christmas celebrations for fear that Muslims could be led astray.