The State Department on Tuesday said Brunei’s decision to implement provisions of its new penal code that would impose the death penalty against anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexuality “runs counter to its international human rights obligations.”
“All governments have an obligation to ensure that all people can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled,” said deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in a statement. “The United States strongly opposes violence, criminalization and discrimination targeting vulnerable groups, including women at risk of violence, religious and ethnic minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.”
“We continue to encourage Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015, and to sign, ratify, and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” he added.
Provisions of the new penal code, which is based on Shariah law, are scheduled to take effect on Wednesday.
The new penal code has sparked widespread outrage around the world and prompted renewed calls to boycott the Beverly Hills Hotel and and other properties that Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei owns.
Germany is among the other countries that have also criticized Brunei over the new penal code. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday said the country, which is on the island of Borneo, must respect international human rights and norms.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.