BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The full implementation of the Syariah Penal Code — including hudud punishments — will come into effect on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed in a statement issued Saturday.

The government defended its right to implement Islamic laws as a “sovereign Islamic and fully independent country”, as intense  international media attention continued to build over the past few days.

“Brunei Darussalam has always been practising a dual legal system, one that is based on the syariah law and the other on common law,” the statement read.

“In fully implementing the Syariah Penal Code Order from April 3, 2019, both systems will continue to run in parallel to maintain peace and order and preserve religion, life, family and individuals regardless of gender, nationality, race and faith.”

Hudud has been controversial due to the penalties prescribed, such as amputation of limbs for theft and stoning to death for adultery, but prosecutors must fulfill a high burden of proof in order to carry out such punishments, otherwise cases will be tried in the conventional court system.

Crimes punishable by hudud include theft, illicit sexual relations, making unproven accusations of illicit sex, causing physical hurt, drinking intoxicants, apostasy, and acts contrary to Islamic beliefs.

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The legislation also includes other offences that are punishable by fines and/or imprisonment, such as disrespecting the month of Ramadhan, propagating religions other than Islam and questioning the religious authority of the state.

“The syariah law, apart from criminalising and deterring acts that are against the teachings of Islam, also aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The Syariah Penal Code will run in tandem with the country’s Penal Code, which is based on English common law.

The government first announced its intention to introduce Islamic criminal law back in October 2013. Phase 1 of the Syariah Penal Code was adopted in May 2014, but Phase 2 and Phase 3 could only come into effect once the government finalised amendments to the Syariah Court Criminal Procedure Code, which outlines how law enforcement should conduct investigation and prosecution.

The full text of the Syariah Penal Code is available here.

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