GENEVA, May 10, 2019 — Despite Brunei’s notorious new penal code that provides for the stoning of gays, nation after nation lined up today at the UN Human Rights Council to laud the absolute monarchy’s track record on human rights, as the country underwent a mandatory review that all UN member states undergo every five years. (See quotes below.)
According to a count by UN Watch, 61 out of 91 countries that spoke praised the government for its human rights record. An additional 21 countries expressed some praise for Brunei’s alleged progress, in addition to applying genuine scrutiny. If one includes these statements, then 82 out of 91 countries, or 90%, expressed praise for the country.
While the UNHRC’s mandatory review exercise is meant to scrutinize all nations every five years in order to improve the lives of victims worldwide, the vast majority of countries who took the floor today chose not to address Brunei’s atrocious human rights record, which includes criminalization of same-sex sexual activity, the use of caning and stoning as punishment, and strict censorship.
Representing Brunei at the UN session was the country’s Second Foreign Minister Dato Erywan Mohd Yusof, who claimed that the country respected the rights of all of its people, including women, children, and LGBT people.
“The government makes it a priority to guarantee the welfare of the people at all levels and ensure that no one is left behind,” he said. “No private citizens are discriminated against in any way.”
Following is a selection of praise that Brunei received today at its review:
Egypt: We “welcome the progress that has been made by way of gender policy.”
Equatorial Guinea: “We are very impressed.”
Cambodia: “Brunei’s government remains committed to protect and strengthen democracy and human rights principles.”
China: We appreciate efforts to “promote harmonious coexistence between ethnic groups.”
Cuba: “There are positive results since the last review.”
The Philippines: “We are pleased to note efforts in advancing rights of women and children.”
Saudi Arabia: “Brunei prepared its human rights report “with the professionalism that demonstrates the interest of the country in human rights.”
Bangladesh: “We commend progress made in promotion of rights of women, children, and persons with disabilities.”
Bahrain: We “welcome the positive steps taken by the government of Brunei to promote and protect human rights.”
Algeria: We “welcome efforts to promote human rights for all sectors of society.”
UAE: “We see this opportunity to applaud achievements made by Brunei.”
Sudan: We “welcome the constructive and positive measures taken.”
Palestine: “We also commend the government of Brunei.”
Sri Lanka: We “warmly welcome the delegation of Brunei.”
Russia: We “commend work to implement and strengthen the youth policy.”
Qatar: We “commend social coexistence and encourage Brunei to continue its current policy on the basis of transparency.”
However, a minority of countries—including Canada, France, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland—rightly called out Brunei’s use of a Sharia law penal code, limitations on women’s rights and restrictions on the media.