Sultan of Brunei imposes tough Sharia punishments

UN voices concern over new set of Islamic laws

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The Independent Online

Brunei is to adopt a harsh set of Sharia punishments to include death by stoning and amputation, its Sultan has announced.

Theft will be punished by severing the culprit’s limbs and adulterers will be stoned to death in the Islamic penal laws to be phased in over three years from Thursday.

The UN has voiced “deep concern” about the changes adopted by the tiny state on the island of Borneo, and celebrities including Stephen Fry and Ellen DeGeneres have boycotted the Dorchester Collection, Brunei-owned luxury hotel chain.

The penal code will be introduced over three years. According to the Brunei Times, fines and prison sentences will be covered by the first phase, followed by amputations in the second and stoning for crimes including adultery and homosexual acts in the final phase.

The order, which caused a rare strong response on social media, came straight from Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s wealthiest men.

The AFP news agency quoted the 67 year-old Sultan as announcing: "Today... I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday 1 May 2014, will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases.”

Almost three-quarters of those who live in the country are Malay Muslims, but there are also Buddhist and Christian communities. The new laws will be applied to those of all faiths, according to the Brunei Times.

The UN last night urged Brunei to delay the changes to ensure they met international human rights standards.

"Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited," spokesman said