U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Brunei
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Brunei, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa6220.html [accessed 23 July 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
BRUNEIBrunei Darussalam, a small, wealthy monarchy located on the north coast of Borneo, is a sultanate ruled by the same family for 600 years. The 1959 Constitution provided for the first delegation of political power by the late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin to an appointed council of state, but in 1962 the then Sultan invoked an article of the Constitution that allowed him to assume emergency powers for 2 years. These powers have been regularly renewed, most recently by the current Sultan in July 1996. Although not all of the articles of the Constitution are suspended, the state of emergency places few limits on the Sultan's power. He also serves as Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Minister of Finance, chancellor of the national university, superintendent general of the Royal Brunei Police Force, and leader of the Islamic faith. The police force, which has responsibility for internal security, reports to the Prime Minister's office, which includes an Internal Security Department, and is firmly under the control of civil authorities. Brunei's large oil and natural gas reserves, coupled with its small population, give it one of the world's highest per capita gross national products. Human rights remain broadly circumscribed. In practice citizens do not have the right to change their government, and they generally eschew political activity of any kind. Nor, constitutional provisions notwithstanding, do they genuinely exercise the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. Other human rights problems, including discrimination against women and restriction of religious freedom, continued.