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Amnesty International Report 2002 - Brunei Darussalam

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2002
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2002 - Brunei Darussalam , 28 May 2002, available at: [accessed 18 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January-December 2001

Brunei Darussalam
Head of state and government: Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah
Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Population: 0.3 million
Official language: Malay
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice

Three prisoners of conscience were detained for nine months for alleged "subversive" activities related to their peaceful Christian beliefs. More than 20 others were reported to have been questioned, with some detained for over three weeks. Amendments to press laws introduced a series of restrictions to press freedoms. Death sentences continued to be passed and a number of people convicted of criminal offences were reportedly subjected to corporal punishment.


The monarch, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, continued to exercise a wide range of executive powers, holding the offices of Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister and head of the police. Under the 1962 state of emergency, constitutional provisions safeguarding fundamental liberties remained suspended. The sole remaining opposition party, reported to have less than 200 members, was largely inactive.

Arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA)

The ISA allows the Minister of Home Affairs, on the orders of the Sultan, to detain any person deemed to be a threat to national security. The Minister is empowered to sign two-year detention orders, renewable indefinitely. ISA detainees are denied their rights to a trial, to legal counsel and to be presumed innocent. During prolonged interrogation, while held in isolation and denied access to lawyers, family members and independent medical attention, ISA detainees are at risk of ill-treatment or torture.

  • Three men, Yunus Murang, Freddie Chong and Malai Taufick, were arrested under the ISA in December 2000 and held for nine months. The three prisoners of conscience, all reportedly Christians linked to the Borneo Evangelical Church Mission, were accused of " activities which sought to convert "by deception" members of the country's majority Muslim community and so threatened inter-religious harmony. According to reports, the three detainees were subjected to intense psychological pressure, including threats of indefinite detention without trial, unless they confessed to "subversive" activities or cooperated in a process of Islamic re-education. At least one detainee was reported to be have been held for two months in a darkened cell. The three were released in October after signing a statement regretting their "past involvement in subversive activities", taking an oath of allegiance to the Sultan and pledging not to repeat their alleged wrongdoings.
More than 20 others, Christians and Muslims, were reported to have been temporarily detained during related investigations by Internal Security Department police in early 2001. At least four of these detainees, including three Christian women, were held for over three weeks. Upon release the detainees were subject to restrictions including reporting regularly to the police and attending religious education programs.

Restrictions on press freedom

The government introduced amendments to existing press laws that were criticized as a threat to press freedom and the right to freely hold and peacefully express one's opinions. Under the amendments, all newspapers are required to apply for an annual publishing permit, issued solely at the discretion of the Minister of Home Affairs without the right of judicial review. Those publishing without a permit are liable to a fine or up to three years' imprisonment. The legislative changes also empowered the Minister to charge journalists with the crime of maliciously publishing "false news", punishable by a fine or up to three months' imprisonment or both. The Minister has the power to ban the sale of foreign publications and to suspend media outlets. Government permission is also required for the provision of funds from foreign sources for newspapers or journalists in Brunei.

Death penalty and corporal punishment

In October, Mohd Omar bin Abdullah, a Malaysian citizen convicted of drugs trafficking, had his death sentence confirmed by the Appeal Court. No executions were known to have been carried out since 1957. Unconfirmed reports stated that at least one person may have been executed in recent years, but no relevant government statistics were published.

Caning remained mandatory for drug-related and other criminal offences including vandalism. People convicted of criminal offences were reportedly caned during 2001.
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