Europe calls for Brunei ‘asset freezes and visa bans’ over anti-gay laws

European-Parliament asset freeze brunei

The European Parliament has backed calls for asset freezes and visa bans over Brunei’s new “death to gays” penal code.

The parliament passed a resolution on Thursday (April 18) condemning the southeast Asian nation’s recently introduced Penal Code, which imposes penalties as harsh as death by stoning for gay sex, extramarital sex and abortion and have been met with intense condemnation from across the globe.

The European Parliament voted for a resolution “strongly condemning the use of torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment” in Brunei, warning that it “violates Brunei’s obligations under international human rights law.”

The resolution calls on authorities “to consider the adoption at EU level of restrictive measures related to serious human rights violations, including asset freezes and visa bans.”

It also backs a boycott of Brunei-owned hotels across the European Union, adding, “As long as the current Penal Code is in force, the EU institutions must consider blacklisting the hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency.”

The resolution also calls on EU member states to implement “asylum procedures and humanitarian protection for victims of Brunei’s current Penal Code.”

Brunei moves to defend anti-gay laws

Last Saturday, a group of protesters rallied opposite the Brunei-owned Royal on the Park Hotel in Brisbane to oppose the laws, chanting “Shame Sultan, shame”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten have both condemned the Sultan of Brunei’s actions but neither party have stated they would go as far as asset freezes and visa bans.

Brunei has attempted to downplay the new laws, with Brunei foreign minister Erywan Yusof writing in a letter to the United Nations last week that there had been “misconceptions” around the country’s Penal Code and the laws would focus “more on prevention than punishment.”

Yusof claimed that the laws are intended to preserve Brunei’s “traditional, religious and cultural values” and would aim to “educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture.”

He suggested that gay people would be unlikely to be stoned to death under the laws due to the “extremely high evidentiary threshold.”

But human rights group Amnesty International said Brunei’s defense of the laws was “absurd” and enacting them would create a “toxic and threatening environment” in the country.

“To defend the threat of amputation and stoning as aiming to ‘rehabilitiate and nurture’ is plainly absurd,” Amnesty’s deputy director of global issues Stephen Cockburn said.

“To legalise torture is sickening and callous in any circumstance. To do so as a preventative measure is also reckless.”

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