Senate Passes Bipartisan Resolution Condemning Brunei For Barbaric Laws

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate has passed a bipartisan resolution introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Todd Young (R-IN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) that condemns the government of Brunei for recently imposing laws that include, among other troubling things, death by stoning for adultery and homosexual relations.  Their resolution also calls for the repeal of these barbaric laws and visa bans for anyone involved in their implementation. 

“These recently imposed laws by unelected Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah are both barbaric and draconian,” Durbin said.  “Passage of this resolution sends a strong, bipartisan message that these actions will not stand in the U.S. Senate and do not reflect our values as Americans.”

“The laws imposed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah are truly horrific and violate the most basic human rights.  I am proud to stand with my colleagues in condemnation of these barbaric new laws,” said Young.

“The United States must be ready and willing to call out laws that violate basic human rights wherever in the world it may be,” said Menendez.  “The Senate must not be silent when barbarism and cruelty rears its ugly head.”

“I am deeply disturbed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s implementation of these backwards laws, which clearly violate international human rights standards.  We must not remain silent in the face of this injustice, and I applaud the Senate for taking quick action on our resolution. I urge our colleagues in the House to consider it without delay and help send a strong rebuke to these actions,” said Van Hollen.  

“The Government of Brunei must understand that its recently enacted laws violate the universal human rights of the people of Brunei.  These universal rights should be afforded to every individual in every nation. If Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah truly wants to improve the quality of life for all his citizens, he must reject these laws,” said Cardin. “America’s strength is in our values and we will not stand idle as such antiquated laws are promulgated in modern times.”

Full text of the resolution is available here and below:

Title: Condemning Brunei's dramatic human rights backsliding.

Whereas Brunei has been led since 1967 by one of the world’s longest-reigning absolute monarchs, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah;

Whereas Brunei gained independence in 1984;

Whereas emergency powers in place in Brunei since 1962 allow the sultan to govern with few limitations to his authority;

Whereas, according to the United States Department of State Brunei 2018 Human Rights Report, human rights issues included censorship, interferences with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, crimes involving violence or threats targeting homosexuality, and exploitation of foreign workers, including through forced labor;

Whereas Brunei’s media are neither free nor diverse, with broadcasting dominated by the state and private media owned or controlled by the royal family;

Whereas homosexuality has been illegal in Brunei, carrying a punishment of up to ten years in prison;

Whereas in 2013, the Government of Brunei announced it was imposing new laws that included harsher punishments of death by stoning for adultery and homosexual relations;

Whereas international condemnation resulted in a delay in carrying out the provisions;

Whereas, in March 2019, the Government of Brunei announced it was going forward with the penal code to take effect April 3, 2019;

Whereas the law includes, among other things, death by stoning for male same-sex relations, adultery, and blasphemy, amputation of limbs for theft, caning for female same-sex relations, and criminalization of exposure of children to the beliefs and practices of differing religions;

Whereas, on April 2, 2019, the Department of State said Brunei’s new laws and associated penalties run “counter to its international human rights obligations including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”;

Whereas, on April 18, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution strongly condemning Brunei for introducing “retrograde” laws, calling for their immediate repeal, urging that Brunei uphold its international obligations under “international human rights instruments, including with regard to sexual minorities, religious minorities and non-believers,” and suggesting visa bans and asset freezes should the laws not be repealed;

Whereas the United Nations and international human rights organizations have denounced the laws, arguing they amount to torture and a violation of human rights;

Whereas United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Brunei to repeal the laws, which include punishments she called “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” and a “serious setback for human rights protections.”;

Whereas Human Rights Watch stated, “Brunei’s new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes...Sultan Hassanal should immediately suspend amputations, stoning, and all other rights-abusing provisions and punishments.”;

Whereas Amnesty International stated, “Brunei’s Penal Code is a deeply flawed piece of legislation containing a range of provisions that violate human rights...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.”; and

Whereas the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also noted that the implementation of these discriminatory laws will drive people underground and out of reach of life-saving HIV treatment and prevention services, increases stigma, and gives license to discrimination, violence, and harassment: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) condemns the Government of Brunei’s further criminalization and barbaric punishments regarding sexual orientation, adultery, and relations between persons of the same sex;

(2) calls on the Government of Brunei to expeditiously repeal such measures; and

(3) supports the withdrawal and denial of United States visas for any Brunei official responsible for passage or implementation of such laws until they are repealed.