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Brunei Travel: Ready to be stoned to death? How will WTTC and UNWTO respond?

Brunei is becoming a deadly place to visit starting April 3, specially if you are member of the LGBT Community.

Next week the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) will have their annual summit in Seville, Spain. Tourism leaders from around the globe will meet and listen to keynote speaker U.S. President Obama. Will President Obama, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, or WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara say something on what is developing in Brunei?

No country in the world so far issued travel warnings against Brunei. U.S. authorities have a level 2 travel advisories against Germany or the Bahamas but find travel for Americans perfectly safe when a new law threatens citizens and visitors, including children to be subject to death by stoning for same-sex sexual acts and amputation for robbery. Such a law will come into effect in Brunei Darussalam on April 3.

Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo, in 2 distinct sections surrounded by Malaysia and the South China Sea. It’s known for its beaches and biodiverse rainforest, much of it protected within reserves. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is home to the opulent Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah mosque and its 29 golden domes. The capital’s massive Istana Nurul Iman palace is the residence of Brunei’s ruling sultan

“Pending provisions in Brunei’s Penal Code would allow stoning and amputation as punishments – including for children, to name only their most heinous aspects,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International.

“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.”

These punishments are provided for in newly-implemented sections of the Brunei Darussalam Syariah Penal Code that are due to come into force on 3 April 2019, according to a discreet notice on the Attorney General’s website.

“To legalize such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself. Some of the potential ‘offences’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard. “These abusive provisions received widespread condemnation when plans were first discussed five years ago.”

Amnesty expressed grave concerns over the Penal Code when the code’s first phase was implemented in April 2014.

“Brunei’s Penal Code is a deeply flawed piece of legislation containing a range of provisions that violate human rights,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard. “As well as imposing cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, it blatantly restricts the rights to freedom of expression, religion, and belief, and codifies discrimination against women and girls.”

Stoning and a hunt to kill members of the LGBT community is not an isolated problem in Brunei alone. Brunei is joining countries like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Tanzania.

Background

Brunei Darussalam has signed but not yet ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and has rejected all recommendations to this effect in its human rights review at the UN in 2014.

Under international human rights law, corporal punishment in all its forms, such as stoning, amputation or whipping, constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, which is prohibited in all circumstances.

Acts of torture and other ill-treatment are absolutely proscribed in the main international human rights instruments, most of which Brunei has not signed or ratified. In addition, this prohibition is also recognized as a peremptory rule of customary international law, meaning that every state is bound by it even if they are not a party to a relevant human rights treaty. All acts of torture constitute crimes under international law.

While Brunei retains the death penalty in law, it is abolitionist in practice. One new death sentence was imposed in 2017, for a drug-related offense.

Just a few years ago the Sultan of Brunei told UNWTO Secretary-General and WTTC CEO: “We will do our best to support tourism. Tourism is of strategic importance for Brunei and based on two principal resources: the country’s pristine rainforest in the heart of Borneo, and its spiritual and cultural heritage. Environmental protection and conservation must, therefore, lie at the heart of any tourism development, the Sultan had stressed.

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