The signed letter was addressed to US Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to force Brunei to take action or be expelled from ongoing trade negotiations, according to hollywoodreporter.com.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the absolute ruler of the tiny Southeast Asian kingdom had May 1 decreed into law the strict Islamic Sharia penal code that will include calls for flogging, dismemberment and lead to death by stoning for crimes of a sexual nature, including those of same-sex relations.
“We write… to urge you to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations as a condition of the United States participating with them in any further Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations,” read the letter drafted by Congressman Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Madison, Wisc.
According to a spokesman, Pocan plans to continue collecting signatures from his fellow lawmakers. The letter marks the first public action by US lawmakers to pressure the small country in Southeast Asia into abandoning its draconian laws.
“As Members of Congress, we believe that protecting fundamental human rights is a cornerstone of American values and must always be a priority in our relations, both diplomatic and economic, with foreign countries,” the letter said.
It particularly mentions that Brunei’s penal code” threatens the human rights of minority groups including women, religious minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals” and urges US officials to “to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations.”
This is because the ” United States is committed to protecting the rights of religious minorities, LGBT individuals and women across the globe,” it said.
Brunei’s adoption of the revised penal code legalizes violence against its citizens, constituting torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, it pointed out.
The United States must make it clear that we will not tolerate such abuses and the United States trade agreements should insist that participating countries adhere to internationally recognized civil, political and human rights standards, it said.
“Targeting LGBT individuals or religious minorities and opening the door for discrimination and violence against women is a threat we cannot overlook (as) the United States would lose its leverage to provide economic pressure on countries to reverse unacceptable policies,” it added.
“As the world’s largest economy, the United States holds a significant place in world affairs and must use this position to address human rights atrocities in countries like Brunei,” the letter said. “According with all applicable rules and regulations, we urge you to insist that Brunei address these human rights violations as a condition before the United States enter into any trade negotiations,” the lawmakers said.