Reports say Brunei’s foreign ministry has released a statement saying Sharia law is solely about prevention rather than punishment, after the intense criticisms the Sultan received from the UN after implementing the stringent Islamic code.

Brunei decided to implement the second phase of Sharia law on 3 April.

The first phase of Sharia Law, which covered crimes punishable by prison sentences, was implemented in 2014.

Brunei leader Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Brunei received a letter from the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights on 1 April warning Brunei that implementation of the new laws contravened international human rights that were set out in 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which was ratified by Brunei in 2006.

However, Brunei proceeded with the legislation implementation.

 “This law’s aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than to punish. The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims, particularly women,” said Brunei Minister of Foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof.

Brunei said there would be a high threshold for evidence of these crimes, suggesting that punishment would be rare.

The statement clarified that in the case of certain crimes, at least two men of high moral standing and piety would have to bear witness.

Mr Yusof added that these men would have to live up to high standards, which he stated was difficult to find in this day and age.

Under the new law, individuals accused for committing offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of Prophet Muhammad will carry the maximum penalty of death, whilst lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 cane strokes and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail.