Brunei Darussalam

Brunei’s legal system is based on British common law, with a parallel Shariah law system. The laws of Brunei comprise of written judgments and legislation enacted by the Sultan and the Legislative Council. The civil and criminal courts include the Supreme Courts (High Court and Court of Appeal), the Intermediary Courts and the Magistrates Courts, with the Privy Council in London remaining the final court of appeal for civil matters. Shariah courts have jurisdiction over Islamic family and criminal law. The judiciary has no power to interpret the constitution and judicial review is prohibited under Brunei’s Constitution.

Brunei has an Anti-Corruption Bureau within the Prime Minister’s Office. Brunei has legislation and a National Council on Social Issues to protect the rights of women, children, persons with disabilities, the elderly and the poor. Trafficking and smuggling in persons is also criminalized.

With respect to human rights, the Constitution of Brunei Darussalam states that “The official religion of Brunei Darussalam shall be the Islamic Religion: Provided that all other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony by the persons professing them.” The Constitution provides no guarantee for other human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Brunei Darussalam is a State Party to two core international human rights instruments, namely the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OP-CRC-SC). Brunei has lodged reservations against provisions in both Conventions that Brunei believes are contrary to its Constitution and the beliefs and principles of Islam. Brunei is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which it undertook to ratify in its 2009 Universal Periodic Review. Brunei is also a party to the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention.

In its State Report submission to the 2009 UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Government of Brunei emphasized progress made in improving access to education, health care and social security.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) UPR submission noted that no UN Special Procedures Mandate Holder has visited Brunei in their official capacity. Brunei responded that it would welcome any request that it issue a standing invitation to the UN Special Procedures.

Members of the UN Human Rights Council made a number of recommendations during the UPR review that Brunei did not accept:

  • Ratify other UN core human rights treaties (Brunei committed to considering ratification),
  • Establish a national human rights institute,
  • Revoke the 1962 state of emergency which grants the Sultan absolute discretion to issue executive orders,
  • Amend the Societies Order that requires public gatherings of more than 10 people to have prior government approval,
  • Decriminalize rape within marriage and consensual homosexual activity,
  • Amend or repeal the Sedition Act and the Newspapers Act that, respectively, prohibit criticism of the Brunei royal family and give discretionary government powers to issue and revoke annual newspaper licenses, and criminally charge editors for publishing false information,
  • Amend or repeal the Internal Security Act that allows an individual to be held, upon the Home Minister’s Directive, without charge or trial for a period of up to two years, renewable indefinitely.

Brunei accepted the UPR recommendations on preventing abuse of migrant worker, responding that national employment and migration law offers sufficient protection.