Pursuing Over-Criminalization at the Expense of Islamic Law: Symposium on Brunei’s New Islamic Criminal Law Code
5 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2021
Date Written: 2020
In a short essay, Adnan A. Zulfiqar takes a more critical approach to aspects of Brunei’s criminal laws that have garnered less attention but that he finds more troubling. The international community has, rightly in his view, protested against and condemned the law’s potential violations of human rights norms against torture and individual freedom. Most condemnations have focused on provisions for capital punishment, whipping, and amputation for the new Code’s crimes of liwāṭ (sodomy), zinā (unlawful sexual intercourse between heterosexuals), and theft. But little attention has been paid to the Code’s departures from "classical Islamic law’s substantive and procedural constraints" thus allowing legislators and prosecutors to "criminalize more conduct." For example, the Code permits punishment of offenders who lack legal capacity, requires four eyewitnesses to prove rape, and prosecutes beliefs through punishing attempted apostasy. For these reasons, despite the procedural protections and heightened standards of doubt jurisprudence to which Mohamed and Müller point, the new Code entails many other provisions that signal the need for greater caution and perhaps further modification. Zulfiqar argues that Brunei codified Islamic criminal law in a way that creates novel crimes and disregards defendant rights, thus diverging from norms of fairness and cultural accommodation present in the precedents and mores of the very Islamic system which it seeks to reinterpret for its society today.
Keywords: Brunei, Islamic criminal law, Islamic law, International law
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