The new penal code that calls for death by stoning for same-sex relations, robbery, insulting or defamation of the Prophet Mohammed as well as a list of other sexually related offences such as rape and adultery was to come into effect April 22.
No confirmed new date was given for the law to take effect although an official told the Brunei Times that the punishment which includes flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning was to begin in the very near future.
Brunei Times quoted Jauyah Zaini, assistant director of the Muslim sultanate’s Islamic Legal Unit as saying that the delay was due to unavoidable circumstances as Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the head of state and government, is on a trip to Singapore.
However officials told AFP that the country would go ahead and enforce the new law as planned on April 30 but in a phased manner.
Same-sex relations have long been a crime in Brunei, but the maximum punishment till now has been a 10-year prison sentence. The new law introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for crimes of a sexual nature, including those of same-sex relations.
The United Nations human rights office has voiced deep concern about the revised penal code and the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes.
Stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited, it said.
The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violates a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, it added.
Brunei has maintained an effective moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 1957.
Muslim-majority Brunei gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1984. It has considerable wealth from petroleum and natural gas fields and is classified as a developed country.
Under Brunei’s constitution, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is head of state and rules the country as Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defense Minister.