international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (signed only)
The death penalty is mandatory for murder, unlawful possession of firearms and explosives, and drug trafficking (import and export of over 15g of morphine or heroin; possession of over 30g of morphine or heroin for the purpose of unauthorized trafficking and unauthorized manufacture of morphine or heroin). In 1992 possession of more than 200g of cannabis or opium was made a capital offence. Other criminal offences are: terrorism, kidnapping, treason, arson of certain public utilities, military crimes, perjury in a capital trial that ends with the conviction of an innocent person and other offenses that result in death.
In February 2002, the Misuse of Drugs Act was amended making anyone caught trafficking or smuggling more than 50 g of the synthetic drug methamphetamine hydrochloride, commonly called Ice or shabu, punishable by death. Before this amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act, the death penalty was reserved for those trafficking or smuggling more than 200 g of shabu. The new law also provides that anyone caught in possession of more than 100 g of shabu - as opposed to 250 g earlier - would be sent to the gallows.
The last execution in Brunei took place in 1957. The death penalty on women
On 22 October 2013, Brunei Darussalam enacted a new Sharia Penal Code, which provides tough Islamic punishments including stoning to death for adultery, severing of limbs for theft, and flogging for violations ranging from abortion to alcohol consumption. “By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled,” said the 67-year-old Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who has presided over a shift to more conservative Islam in recent years.
On 1 May 2014, the new Sharia Penal Code of Brunei Darussalam came into force effectively, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah stated in a royal decree. “With faith and gratitude to Allah the almighty, I declare that tomorrow, Thursday May 1, 2014, will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” the absolute monarch said in his decree on 30 April.
The Shariah Penal Code Order 2013 provides for the death penalty as a possible penalty – for both Muslims and non-Muslims – for the crimes of robbery (Article 63), rape (Article 76), adultery and sodomy (Article 82). Death is also prescribed as a penalty – for Muslims only – upon conviction for acts constituting extramarital sexual relations (Article 69). Insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith (oral reports of the deeds and sayings of Muhammad), blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and murder are the other offences for which the death penalty could be applied under the revised code.
The 2013 Penal Code also specifies that the manner by which capital punishment is to be imposed for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations is stoning to death.
Brunei is the first country in East or Southeast Asia to introduce a Sharia Penal Code on a national level. The initial phase beginning on 1 May introduces fines or jail terms for offences ranging from indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. A second phase covering crimes such as theft and robbery is to start later 2014, involving more stringent penalties such as severing of limbs and flogging. Late 2015, punishments such as death by stoning for offences including sodomy and adultery will be introduced.
The new Penal Code sparked rare domestic criticism of authorities and international condemnation. But Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in his decree that the move was “a must” under Islam, dismissing “never-ending theories” that Sharia punishments were cruel. “Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair,” he said.
“Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). He added that, “under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited.” Noting that Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957, OHCHR urged the Government to establish a formal moratorium and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.
Under the Brunei Criminal Procedure Code (art. 246) pregnant women face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and a lighter sentence may be passed when possible.
In 2009, Brunei did not accept the recommendations to institute an official moratorium on the death penalty or officially abolish the death penalty made by members of the Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review of human rights.
On 2 May 2014, Brunei Darussalam was reviewed again under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. On 10 September 2014, in its response to the recommendations received, Brunei Darussalam rejected the recommendations to postpone the implementation of the Sharia Penal Code Order, 2013, and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. The Government noted that, to date, the abolition of the death penalty is not required by international law.
On December 19, 2016, Brunei Darussalam once again voted against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.