08:44, April 22 62 0 theguardian.com

2019-04-22 08:44:05
Brunei defends death by stoning for gay sex in letter to EU

Brunei has written to the European parliament defending its decision to start imposing death by stoning as a punishment for gay sex, claiming convictions will be rare as it requires two men of “high moral standing piety” to be witnesses.

In a four-page letter to MEPs, the kingdom’s mission to the EU calls for “tolerance, respect, understanding” with regard to the country’s desire to preserve its traditional values and “family lineage”.

The new penal code, which also provides for the amputation of thieves and whipping for people wearing clothes associated with the opposite sex, was brought in on 3 April, despite international condemnation.

But in a letter to MEPs, the kingdom claims the outcry is due to a misconception that it wanted to clarify.

“The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage to individual Muslims, particularly women,” the kingdom says.

“The penal sentences of hadd – stoning to death and amputation, imposed for offences of theft, robbery, adultery and sodomy have extremely high evidentiary threshold, requiring no less than two or four men of high moral standing and piety as witnesses – to the exclusion of every form of circumstantial evidence.”

Brunei, a British colony until 1984, said this was “coupled with a very high standard of proof of ‘no doubt at all’ for all aspects, which goes further than the common law standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’”.

Such is the required “standards of piety of the male witness” that the kingdom writes that it is “extremely difficult to find one in this day and age, to the extent that convictions of hadd may solely rest on confessions of the offender”. Confessions, the kingdom adds, may be retracted.

In regard to whipping, if that is deemed by sharia courts to be the appropriate punishment, the kingdom says this will be administered only by those of the same gender as those convicted.

“The offender must be clothed, whipping must be with moderate force without lifting his hand over his head, shall not result in the laceration of the skin nor the breaking of bones and shall not be inflicted on the face, head, stomach, chest or private parts.”

The letter was sent before a vote last week in which MEPs backed a resolution by a show of hands strongly condemning “the entry into force of the retrograde sharia penal code”.

The parliament also called on the EU to consider asset freezes, visa bans and the blacklisting of nine hotels owned by Brunei Investment Agency, including the Dorchester in London, Beverly Hills hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. Celebrities including Elton John and George Clooney have called for the hotels to be boycotted.

The sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is one of the world’s richest leaders with a personal wealth of about $20bn (£15bn). He has ruled since 1967.

Homosexuality has been illegal since the country broke from British rule, but before the recent move to a more conservative interpretation of Islam it was punishable by jail.

Britain, France, Germany and the UN are among those who have condemned the hardening of the kingdom’s laws.

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