US, celebrities join criticism of Brunei's new laws allowing stoning for gay sex, adultery

PHOTO: Amal and George Clooney attend the Peoples Postcode Lottery Charity Gala at McEwan Hall, March 15, 2019, in Edinburgh, Scotland.PlayDuncan Mcglynn/Getty Images, FILE
WATCH Celebrities criticize Brunei's anti-gay law

The United States has joined the international criticism of Brunei's harsh new law that allows stoning to death for Muslims convicted of homosexual sex and adultery.

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The law, which went into effect on Wednesday, has triggered an international backlash, which includes celebrities advocating for a boycott of hotel properties owned by Brunei, a tiny, wealthy oil producing country on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

"Brunei’s decision to implement Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code and associated penalties runs counter to its international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," said Robert Palladino, the State Department's deputy spokesperson.

"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 Palladino. "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."

Homosexuality was already illegal in Brunei, under the Sharia Law imposed on the mostly Muslim country in 2013. It was to be implemented in three phases in the coming years.

Earlier this year Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced that the second and third phases would go into effect on April 3. Those are the statutes that allow for the death penalty by stoning for Muslims convicted of homosexual sex and adultery.

The State Department's 2014 Religious Freedom Report cited officials from Brunei as saying "the harshest punishments will rarely, if ever, be applied because of the extremely high standards of proof required, such as requiring four pious men to personally witness an act of fornication to support a sentence of stoning.

Regardless the proposed implementation of the new laws has drawn international condemnation.

However, it wasn't until last week that the U.S. State Department said it was "concerned" by the new laws going into effect on Wednesday.

A statement provided to the Daily Beast said that the United States has " encouraged 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."

PHOTO: Amal and George Clooney attend the Peoples Postcode Lottery Charity Gala at McEwan Hall, March 15, 2019, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Duncan Mcglynn/Getty Images, FILE
Amal and George Clooney attend the People's Postcode Lottery Charity Gala at McEwan Hall, March 15, 2019, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Citing the anti-LGBTQ nature of the laws celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have renewed their calls for the boycott of hotels owned by the sultan. It was first called in 2014.

"Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?" Clooney wrote in a column. "I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way."

DeGeneres posted the same message to several of her social media accounts, writing on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, "Tomorrow, the country of #Brunei will start stoning gay people to death. We need to do something now."

Her social media posts then listed a number of high-profile hotels around the globe, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, that she said should be boycotted to protest Brunei's implementation of the law.

"Raise your voices now," she wrote on Twitter. "Spread the word. Rise up."

Members of the Los Angeles City Council have also come out in support of the hotel boycott.