U.S. State Department tells tourists Brunei is safe, except for death by stoning

The U.S. State Department is telling American travelers, Brunei is one of the safest countries in the world to visit. Brunei safer than the Bahamas, Germany or Indonesia, and way safer then Turkey.

The U.S. embassy, however, states: Criminal penalties for some offenses are harsher than in the United States. This is a clear and misleading understatement:  When traveling to Brunei the State Department wants travelers to read through a 1767 page document provided by the Brunei government outlining all details of the Syariah Penal Code. This law will be implemented as of April 3, 2019. Regardless the State Department tells U.S. Citizens, the country remains a level one “no threat.” visitors destination.

Why is the U.S. Embassy not telling American tourists, that Brunei actually is ready to stone American travelers to death if they are part of the LGBT community? Is this part of the harsher penalty for the crime of sexual orientation?

The embassy website states:

  • Non-Muslims may be arrested for khalwat (close proximity between the sexes) under the Sharia Penal Code provided that the other accused party is Muslim. Khalwat may include activities from holding hands or public displays of affection to sexual activity. U.S. citizens are also subject to khalwat laws.
  • Extramarital relations between a Muslim and non-Muslim may be considered a crime in Brunei.

eTurboNews asked the State Department and received this response:

The U.S. Department of State has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas.  We are committed to providing U.S. citizens with clear, timely, and reliable information about every country in the world so they can make informed travel decisions.  We routinely update our Travel Advisories and country-specific information for all countries based on a comprehensive review of all available safety information and ongoing developments. At a minimum, we review Level 1 and 2 Travel Advisories every 12 months, and Level 3 and 4 Travel Advisories every six months.  We also review and update Travel Advisories and country-specific information on an as-needed basis, based on developing security and safety information.

On March 29 the State Department issued  the following paragraph linked from the page categorizing Brunei as a safe country:

“The Government of Brunei Darussalam will commence full implementation of the Syariah Penal Code (SPC) on April 3, 2019. The full SPC introduces new judicial procedures and punishments, including, for certain offenses and under certain evidentiary circumstances, amputation of hands or feet and death by stoning. The SPC applies regardless of an individual’s religion or nationality, although some sections of the law have specific applicability to Muslims. Brunei’s existing civil penal code and civil courts will continue to function in parallel with the SPC and Syariah Court.”

Scott Foster, president of LGBT Hawaii told eTurboNews:

“The response by the U.S. State Department is insulting and is putting LGBT traveler in danger. It should be the obligation for the U.S. government to protect Americans and not put them in harm’s way.
Death by stoning for LGBT travelers should be clearly visible alert on the State Department Brunei page and not hidden in a 1767 document. In no word is the State Department spelling out this danger to LGBT travelers.
The United States should immediately issue a travel warning to protect our LGBT travelers and citizens. The alert level for Brunei should be raised to 4, what means “DO NOT TRAVEL, or at a minimum to a level 3: “Reconsider Travel.”

About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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