Rep. Ilhan Omar Introduces Legislation to Hold Brunei Accountable for Brutal Penal Code
WASHINGTON—In April, the Sultanate of Brunei instituted a brutal and draconian new Penal Code that would strip away the human rights of its citizens and strengthen the government’s authoritarian grip. The recently announced Penal Code revisions mandate stoning for numerous offenses - among them adultery, consensual same-sex relations, blasphemy, and theft. While the Sultan recently promised not to enforce a provision that authorized the death penalty for those who engage in same-sex relations, the Sultanate’s plan also authorizes flogging for women who have abortions and amputation for those accused of theft.
“These laws are anathema to our values as humans, and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms,” Rep. Omar said. “The new statutes will violate the human rights of women, children and the LGBTQ+ community. This brutality runs counter to universal values of respect for human rights and freedom for people to worship and love however they choose. The United States has a duty to protect against this blatant disregard for humanity and the violation of basic rights wherever we see them.”
Rep. Omar’s bill, the Brunei Human Rights Act, would use the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to ensure that any official who implements this draconian penal code is unable to travel to, or do business with, the United States—and would hold accountable any official who institutes similar provisions in any other country. The law would also mandate reports to Congress on the Brunei penal code and how it affects those fleeing the country as refugees.
The bill was introduced with original cosponsors Reps. Andy Levin, Jamie Raskin, Mark Pocan, Adriano Espaillat, and Eleanor Holmes Norton. Additional cosponsors include Earl Blumenauer, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., James P. McGovern, TJ Cox, Alan S. Lowenthal, Bobby L. Rush, and Norma J. Torres.
It is supported by Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Campaign, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, and the Council for Global Equality.
“Last month, we called for countries with Global Magnitsky laws to put Brunei on notice that senior officials implicated in enforcing the country’s new penal code (by flogging or stoning people to death) will be sanctioned and have assets seized,” said John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch. “We call on members of the House on all sides to support this important Brunei bill. Or at least negotiate to find an acceptable bill. If you all can’t agree on something this fundamental, what can you agree on?”
"We are grateful to Rep. Omar for her leadership in condemning Brunei's draconian and horrifying laws that target LGBTQ people, women and children," said David Stacy, HRC's Director of Government Affairs. "In the absence of White House leadership on these issues, it is crucially important that Congressional leaders send a clear signal that this sort of persecution will not be tolerated and that the people of the United States are part of the world community in condemning this sort of hate."
“Sexual and reproductive rights are fundamental to the human rights of all people and a cornerstone of gender equality. Any restriction of bodily autonomy, including punishments for abortion care or consensual sexual relationships, are a violation of those rights and wholly unacceptable. No law should ever tell someone what they should do with their body, or when and whom to have sex with,” explained Serra Sippel, President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide. “As a leader in the global community, with a history of supporting these human rights, the United States should be at the forefront of promoting and protecting sexual and reproductive rights for all peoples. This legislation would do just that: making it clear to the Sultanate of Brunei and any other country considering similar draconian measures that they cannot restrict human rights without consequences. We applaud Rep. Omar for introducing this important legislation protecting LGBTQ peoples and women in Brunei to the House of Representatives and urge Congress to move swiftly to enact this bill into law.”
You can view the full legislation here.