Brunei has implemented a sharia penal code that punishes such crimes as adultery, sodomy, rape and blasphemy of Muhammad with the death penalty.
“Brunei Darussalam has always been practising a dual legal system, one that is based on the Syariah Law and the other on Common Law,” Brunei’s prime minister’s office said at the end of last month.
“In fully implementing the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO) 2013 from April 3, both systems will continue to run in parallel to maintain peace and order and preserve religion, life, family and individuals regardless of gender, nationality, race and faith.”
It noted that its sharia law, “apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam…also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race”.
Brunei is a country of 2,200 square miles located entirely on the island of Borneo. It is an absolute monarchy led by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and about two-thirds of the population is Muslim.
Under the newly-implemented code, lesbian sex will be penalised with a fine up to $40,000 (€35,615), whipping up to 40 strokes or up to 10 years imprisonment; and theft with amputation.
Those who encourage Muslims to apostasise will be subject to a fine and imprisonment, as will those who persuade someone having no religion to become a believer of a religion other than Islam.
As the code was put into force, Hassanal Bolkiah said that “I want to see Islamic teachings in this country grow stronger”.
The Catholic Church has consistently taught that the state has the authority to use the death penalty, in cases of “absolute necessity”, though with the qualification that the Church considered such situations to be extremely rare.
St John Paul II said that “the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil”. He also spoke of his desire for a consensus to end the death penalty, which he called “cruel and unnecessary”.