BRUNEI: NEW SHARIA PENAL CODE CAME INTO FORCE
May 1, 2014: the new Sharia Penal Code of Brunei Darussalam came into force, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah stated in a royal decree.
"With faith and gratitude to Allah the almighty, I declare that tomorrow, Thursday May 1, 2014, will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases," the absolute monarch said in his decree on 30 April.
The Shariah Penal Code Order 2013, which provides tough Islamic punishments including stoning to death for adultery, severing of limbs for theft, and flogging for violations ranging from abortion to alcohol consumption, was enacted on 22 October 2013, sparking rare domestic criticism of authorities and international condemnation.
But 67-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in his decree that the move was "a must" under Islam, dismissing "never-ending theories" that Sharia punishments were cruel. "Theory states that Allah's law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair," he said.
Brunei is the first country in East or Southeast Asia to introduce a Sharia penal code on a national level.
The initial phase beginning on 1 May introduces fines or jail terms for offences ranging from indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
A second phase covering crimes such as theft and robbery is to start later 2014, involving more stringent penalties such as severing of limbs and flogging.
Late 2015, punishments such as death by stoning for offences including sodomy and adultery will be introduced. (Sources: AFP, 30/04/2014)