The College of Policing has said that it will no longer provide training to Brunei’s police force after the country made gay sex an offence punishable by stoning to death.
The College’s statement follows the revelation that British police were paid more than £150,000 to provide leadership training to senior officers in Brunei, some of whom may now be involved in imposing the country’s barbaric new laws.
The College of Policing’s decision is the latest example of the overwhelming backlash against Brunei’s new legislation. In other moves, the Police Federation announced that it would no longer be holding its 2019 annual bravery awards ceremony at London’s Dorchester Hotel - one of nine Brunei-owned hotels worldwide - Deutsche Bank said that it would not use any of the country’s hotels, the University of Aberdeen stripped the Sultan of Brunei of his honorary degree, and global travel company STA Travel stopped selling flights on the country’s national carrier.
Two weeks ago, the Dorchester and its sister hotels deleted their social media accounts, as the backlash against the new laws gathered pace. The hotels had come under fire from George Clooney. Writing for website Deadline Hollywood, the actor called for a boycott: “Every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels, we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”
Clooney was supported in his stance by Sir Elton John, who wrote on Twitter: “I commend my friend, #GeorgeClooney, for taking a stand against the anti-gay discrimination and bigotry taking place in the nation of #Brunei - a place where gay people are brutalised, or worse - by boycotting the Sultan’s hotels.”
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres also spoke out on Twitter: "We need to do something now. Please boycott these hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Raise your voices now. Spread the word. Rise up.”
Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan called on gay people to “buy up every room” in Brunei-owned hotels and have a “non-stop orgy of fun and frivolity”.
Writing in his column in the Daily Mail, Morgan said: “Imagine how humiliated and small he [the sultan] would feel if his hotels became the very epicentre of gay pride and culture; if every place he owns from London to Paris to LA reverberated with joyous celebration of living, breathing, fornicating homosexuality.”
Morgan went on to suggest that the sultan may be so ashamed to have gay people staying in his hotels that he might “end up stoning himself to death”.
Brunei’s new death-by-stoning penalty for gay sex came into effect earlier in the month - along with a number of other similarly shocking laws - after the sultan called for "stronger" Islamic teachings.
Under the new laws, individuals will be convicted of gay sex if they confess, or are seen committing the act by four witnesses. Lesbian sex will be punishable by 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Brunei, with the punishment prior to the introduction of the new laws being up to 10 years imprisonment.
The new laws came into effect despite the international outcry. Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, said: “Brunei’s new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes.”
Amnesty International’s Rachel Chhoa-Howard said that the country “must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its penal code in compliance with its human rights obligations.”
Adding her voice to the show of outrage, Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for human rights for the United Nations, said: “In reality, no judiciary in the world can claim to be mistake-free, and evidence shows that the death penalty is disproportionately applied against people who are already vulnerable, with a high risk of miscarriages of justice.”
Britain’s international development minister, Penny Mordaunt, wrote on Twitter: “No one should face the death penalty because of who they love. Brunei’s decision is barbaric.”
Meanwhile, UNAIDS - the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV &AIDS - fears that Brunei’s new death-penalty law will drive the country’s LGBT community underground, making it difficult for them to access life-saving HIV treatment and prevention services.
The organisation’s Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, said: I strongly urge Brunei Darussalam to suspend or repeal the amendments to the Syariah Penal Code, and I offer UNAIDS’ support to ensure that laws are grounded in human rights, based on evidence, and protect the most vulnerable.”
He also said: “These extreme and unjustified punishments will drive people underground and out of reach of life-saving HIV treatment and prevention services.”
Evidence shows that where gay communities are criminalised, they are more vulnerable to violence, less likely to access necessary HIV and other health services, and less able to protect themselves against HIV infection.
Despite the introduction of the new laws, the perceived wisdom within Brunei seems to be that they are unlikely to actually be applied, given the high burden of proof required, with four people needing to have witnessed the act of gay sex.
Speaking to BBC Radio Four, Bill Hayton, associate fellow with the Asia Pacific programme at Chatham House, said: “The way it is being explained to me is that this is a way for the sultan to look religious but make sure that none of these punishments will actually be carried out.”
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