George Clooney, UK lead calls for Brunei to drop LGBT+ death penalty

George Clooney listed the names of nine five-star hotels in England, France, Italy and California, all owned by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Brunei Investment Agency, in a column published on Deadline.com.
George Clooney listed the names of nine five-star hotels in England, France, Italy and California, all owned by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Brunei Investment Agency, in a column published on Deadline.com.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (DPA, REUTERS) - Hollywood star George Clooney admitted that he stayed at many of the hotels because "I hadn't done my homework and didn't know who owned them".

Now, he has called for a boycott of these luxury hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei in response to news that adultery and gay sex in that country will be subject to death by stoning.

The British government and European Union politicians also called on Brunei on Friday to abandon plans to impose the law.

The strict Syariah law has been on hold for four years amid heavy criticism.

The law applies to only Muslims.

In a guest column published on film website Deadline.com on Thursday (March 28), Clooney listed the names of nine five-star hotels in England, France, Italy and California, all owned by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's Brunei Investment Agency.

Among those hotels is the exclusive Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and The Dorchester in London.

"Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels, we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery," the Oscar-winning actor wrote.

 

From April 3, people in Brunei who engage in same-sex activity can be flogged and stoned to death.

Consenting same-sex relations are already punishable by 10 years imprisonment under Brunei's existing penal code.

Noting that it is hard to get the decision-makers to change their minds, Clooney said: "But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way."

Filmmaker Dustin Lance Black was also among the celebrities who called for a boycott of hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency.

"If you continue to stay at or frequent the Beverly Hills Hotel, you are guilty of financially supporting these murderers," Black, an Oscar-winning screenwriter, wrote on Twitter, adding the hashtag #BoycottBrunei.

A spokesman for the Dorchester Collection said the hotel group "strongly values people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees".

"Inclusion and diversity remain core beliefs as we do not tolerate any form of discrimination," she said in an e-mail.

This would not be the first boycott targeting the Brunei-owned luxury hotels.

In 2014, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres supported such action after the country cracked down on gay and lesbian behaviour.

Brunei's recent announcement, and particularly the targeting of LGBT+ people, has also sparked international outrage with politicians calling on Brunei to immediately halt its plans.

"The Minister for Asia and High Commissioner have raised their concerns in person," a British foreign office spokesman said in an e-mailed statement on Friday.

"Corporal and capital punishment goes against our national values."

The United States and Britain updated their travel advisories to caution people about the changes in the Muslim-majority country of 400,000 people.

EU politicians called for Brunei to withdraw the law.

Mr Antonio Panzeri, the chairman of the European Parliament subcommittee on human rights, said the country should "bring its penal code into full compliance with human rights obligations".

"Sexual orientation and gender identity are in essence individual choices, which should, under no circumstances, be subject to punishment, legal codification or discriminatory practices," Mr Panzeri said in a statement on Friday.

The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBTI Rights would send a letter to the Sultan of Brunei next Monday, its secretary Juliette Sanchez-Lambert told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.