Brunei will not impose the death penalty on those convicted of having gay sex, in an apparent bid to temper international condemnation following its roll out of strict new Islamic laws last month.In a televised speech on Sunday, the country’s ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, said he would extend a moratorium on capital punishment and ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture.The announcement follows a global backlash to the country’s announcement in April that it would impose draconian new punishments, including death by stoning, for those convicted of gay sex, adultery and rape.In a high profile campaign, celebrities, including George Clooney and Elton John, joined rights groups in seeking to boycott hotels owned by the sultan, while large companies including JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank told their staff to avoid using Brunei-owned hotels in the wake of new laws.

Is the sultan of Brunei imposing Sharia law to clean up his family's image?

Is the sultan of Brunei imposing Sharia law to clean up his family’s image?The tiny oil-rich Asian kingdom became the first East Asian country to introduce Sharia law at a national level in 2014, introducing the legislation and associated penalties in stages.The country initially defended its new legal code, claiming it focused “more on prevention and punishment,” but the growing backlash appears to have forced the kingdom’s hand.In his speech on Sunday, the sultan said there had been a number of “misconceptions” about the laws which he acknowledged may have caused “apprehension.””However, we believe that once these have been cleared, the merit of the law will be evident,” he said.The sultan announced the kingdom’s long-term moratorium on the death penalty would also extend to the new penal code, although he didn’t elaborate whether this was a new decision.“For more than two decades, we have practiced a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law. This will also be applied to cases under the Syariah Penal Code Order (SPCO),” the sultan said.Despite his announcement on the death penalty, Brunei’s leader said Sunday he stood by his new penal code overall.”Both the common law and the Syariah law aim to ensure peace and harmony of the country. They are also crucial in protecting the morality and decency of the public as well as respecting the privacy of individuals,” he said.There was widespread relief among LGBT and human rights activists in the wake of the announcement, but some groups said the “draconian” laws were still in place and needed to be repealed.Human Rights Campaign Director of Global Partnership Jean Freedberg said it was an important step but added the law itself needed to go.”The world has turned its eyes to Brunei in recent months and we urge the countless advocates, activists and organizations who seized this moment to speak out against these human rights abuses to continue to do so,” she said.

CNN

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