The East Asian nation of Brunei has begun the process of adopting sharia law, following a decree by the state’s absolute ruler. The Islamic criminal law will include punishments such as flogging, dismemberment and stoning, and will operate alongside the existing civil code.
The Guardian reports that the Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced the first phase of sharia during a ceremony yesterday. “With faith and gratitude to Allah the almighty, I declare that tomorrow, Thursday 1 May 2014, will see the enforcement of sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” the monarch decreed.
The first phase introduces fines and jail terms for offences such as indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers, and falling pregnant outside of wedlock. The next phase, covering crimes such as theft, will involve punishments such as severing limbs and flogging.
Finally, from next year, acts such as adultery and consensual homosexual sex will be punishable by death by stoning.
The Brunei government’s website said that it “does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them.”
Brunei is one of the most developed nations in East Asia, deriving much of its wealth from oil. Its healthcare, education system and public services are heavily subsidised, yet it retains an absolute monarchy with no sign of democratic reform for the foreseeable future.
The small state is situated on the island of Borneo, which it shares with Malaysia and Indonesia.
Although the new sharia code is believed to be popular among the Muslim ethnic Malays who make up 70 percent of the country’s population, the laws will also apply to non-Muslims.
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said: “Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited.”