Humanists at the 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council have roundly rejected Brunei’s claims that it remains committed to its international obligations after the adoption of the Syariah Penal Code which encroaches upon the rights of all its citizens. The British Humanist Association (BHA) intervention urged the government of Brunei to review this penal code which permits children to be subject to corporal punishment and discriminates against women.
Amelia Cooper, representative of the BHA, outlined how in the first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycle, Brunei Darussalam accepted recommendations to ‘harmonize its legislation with the international norms’. However, these recommendations were disregarded and a Syariah penal code has been implemented instead. Much of this code works in diametric opposition to those standards set by international human rights law, notably provisions in Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), both of which Brunei has ratified. She noted the deep concern expressed by a number of States.
Ms Cooper emphasised the deep regret over Brunei’s rejection of number of recommendations pertaining to the revision or review of the penal code, giving two examples. One recommendation sought to increase the age of criminal responsibility, currently set at seven years old. Brunei justifies this by claiming that cases involving children are rarely brought to court. However, Ms Cooper made clear this must not detract from the fact that having such a legal framework sets a dangerous precedent which permits children to be subject to corporal punishment. She also noted Brunei’s refusal to amend another article of the penal code essentially excusing marital rape on the feeble basis that women are accorded sufficient protection elsewhere.
Ms Cooperconcluded by urging the government of Brunei to review the Syariah Penal Code, looking to adopt a judicial code which will protect, rather than encroach upon, the rights of all its citizens.
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Read the BHA intervention: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014-09-19-v1-AC-hrc27-item6BruneiUPR.pdf
The UN Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCIndex.aspx
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a new and unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aiming at improving the human rights situation on the ground in each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. For Brunei: http://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/brunei_darussalam/session_6_-_november_2009/ahrc1314bruneidarussalame.pdf
UN Declaration of Human Rights: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a19
Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.