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Sultan of Brunei puts moratorium on death penalty against LGBT people

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Wikimedia Commons

The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, after a month of pressure from international advocacy organizations and celebrity boycotts said he is putting a moratorium on capital punishment including death for gay sex and adultery. 

Sultan Bolkiah addressed the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO) and some of its controversial statutes in a televised speech:

"I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the SPCO. However, we believe that once these have been cleared, the merit of the law will be evident.

As evident for more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the SPCO which provides a wider scope for remission.

Both the common law and the Syariah law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country. They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the country as well as the privacy of individuals."

He also said that he will endorse the United Nations convention against torture.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a statement saying the Sultan's turnaround is promising, but they will continue their efforts monitoring the small Southeast Asian country and drive awareness through their #EyesOnBrunei digital campaign.

“HRC notes reports that the Sultan of Brunei has declared a moratorium on the death penalty, and while this is an important step we continue to call on him to repeal this draconian law in its entirety and uphold all Brunei’s commitments under international law, “ said HRC Director of Global Partnerships Jean Freedberg.

“The world has turned its eyes to Brunei in recent months and we urge the countless advocates, activists and organizations who seized this moment to speak out against these human rights abuses to continue to do so. The Trump-Pence administration has so far been silent and must finally join the chorus of voices calling for repeal."

The Islamic laws, or sharia, have been delivered slowly in phases since 2014, this latest section published on April 3.

Although the sultan's speech may bring about some relief to LGBT people in that country, it's not an abetment. 

"If they don't do anything to show that they are supporting the LGBT community, nothing will change. Religion still has a major effect towards homophobia," said one man in the region who wished to remain anonymous.