2008 Human Rights Report for Brunei
I received an email from the US Embassy here on the The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and thought of sharing.
The report is an annual assessment of human rights conditions in hundreds of countries that is mandated by the U.S. Congress. This year, under the Obama administration, the report notes that the United States takes no offense at scrutiny of its human rights record nor should other governments consider the report interference in their “internal affairs.” The reports covers internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For Brunei, the 2008 report among others says:
- No report that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
- No reports of politically motivated disappearances.
- The law prohibits mistreatment of prisoners, and there were no reports of such mistreatment. Caning is mandatory for 42 criminal offenses, and it was included in 80 percent of criminal sentences. In 2007 (2008 statistics were not provided by the government), 68 persons were sentenced to caning for immigration violations. Canings were carried out in the presence of a doctor, who had the authority to interrupt the punishment for medical reasons.
- During the year there were no reports that human rights monitors requested prison visits; foreign diplomats had consular access to detained nationals. Family members were permitted to visit prisoners and bring food.
- There were 67 arrests involving police and military personnel for criminal acts. There were no reports of prosecution or conviction of police or military personnel for corruption.
- Secular law, based on English common law, provides all citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process.
- Shari’a (Islamic law) supersedes secular law for Muslims in cases of divorce, inheritance, and some sexual crimes. Shari’a is not applied to non-Muslims.
- The law permits government intrusion into the privacy of individual persons, families, and homes. Shari’a permits enforcement of khalwat, an Islamic prohibition on the close proximity of a Muslim and a member of the opposite sex other than a spouse or close male relative. There continued to be numerous reports that religious enforcement officers entered homes, buildings, and vehicles to detain suspects. According to religious authorities, there were 163 khalwat cases during the year, 44 of which involved noncitizens.
- The government monitored citizens’ private e-mail, cell phone messaging, and Internet chatroom exchanges believed to be subversive. An informant system was used as part of the government’s internal security apparatus to monitor suspected dissidents.
- The law requires local newspapers to obtain operating licenses and prior government approval of foreign editorial staff, journalists, and printers. The law also gives the government the right to bar distribution of foreign publications and requires distributors of foreign publications to obtain a government permit. The law allows the government to close a newspaper without giving prior notice or showing cause. Journalists deemed to have published or written “false and malicious” reports may be subjected to fines or prison sentences.
- The country’s daily newspapers, the Borneo Bulletin and the Brunei Times, practiced self-censorship. However, letters to the editor often included comments critical of government handling of certain social, economic, and environmental issues. On occasion the government responded to public opinion on topics concerning social or environmental problems and the delay of public services.
- Foreign newspapers were routinely available, although the government must approve their distribution. Internet versions of foreign media were routinely available.
- The government owned the only television station. Three Malaysian television stations were also available, along with two satellite television services. Some content was subject to censorship based on theme, but such censorship was not consistent.
- According to official statistics, more than 19,000 households had Internet access and over 199,500 persons (more than half of the population) were Internet users.
- A Censorship Board made up of officials from the Ministries of Home Affairs, Religious Affairs, and the Prime Minister’s Office determines the suitability of concerts, movies, cultural shows, and other public performances. Religious authorities also review publications to ensure compliance with social norms.
- The country’s various religious groups coexisted peacefully. There were no known Jewish communities in the country, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
- According to unofficial sources there are approximately 20,000 “stateless” persons in the country, including persons born and raised in the country who were not automatically accorded citizenship and its attendant rights but were granted permanent resident status. Since these individuals, mostly ethnic Chinese, did not enjoy full privileges of citizenship, they did not have the right to own land and were not entitled to subsidized health care or higher education. In lieu of Brunei passports, the government issued “certificates of identity” to allow these persons international travel and re-entry; foreign visas may be entered in the certificates.
- Primary education is free for citizens and permanent residents. Secondary education (above grade 10 equivalent) fees of B$140 (approximately $100) per month are required for noncitizens. University fees for noncitizens are B$2,800 to B$3,500 (approximately $2,000 to $2,500).
- The law, which was administered on a case-by-case basis, allows citizenship to permanent residents who have contributed to the country’s economic growth, to women married to a citizen for two years, to women married to permanent residents for five years, and to children of permanent resident fathers after the age of two years and six months.
- There were reliable reports of corruption in the government. In accordance with its zero tolerance policy for corrupt practices, the government successfully prosecuted a number of low-level officials. At year’s end the case of a former government minister accused of corruption in awarding government projects was pending a final ruling from the chief justice.
- Government officials were not subject to financial disclosure reports.
- In accordance with the government’s interpretation of Koranic precepts, Muslim women have rights similar to those of Muslim men in areas such as divorce and child custody. The law requires that males receive twice the inheritance of women. The law permits female citizens to pass their nationality on to their children and to own property and other assets, including business properties.
- Men were eligible for permanent positions in government service whether or not they had university degrees, but married women without university degrees were only eligible to hold government positions on a month to month basis. Women in these month to month positions could not apply for travel allowances for their husbands and children. With this exception, they received the same allowance privileges as their college-educated counterparts in permanent positions.
- No statistics were published regarding the welfare of children. The strong commitment to family values within society, the high standard of living, and government funding for children’s welfare provided most children a healthy and nurturing environment.
- The law does not mandate accessibility or other assistance for persons with disabilities. The government provided educational services for children with disabilities, but countrywide the level of services available was uneven. The DCD conducted several programs targeted at promoting awareness of the needs of people with disabilities.
- According to government data, approximately 88,000 foreigners worked in the country. Foreign workers are excluded from most labor law protections, including freedom of association. The rights of the estimated 25,000 female domestic workers frequently were abused and they had little access to legal remedies. Their liberty was severely restricted and they were required to work exceptionally long hours without being granted a day for rest. There also were isolated reports of employers who beat domestic employees or did not provide them with adequate food. Since most foreign female domestics were highly dependent on their employers, those subject to abuse often were unwilling or unable to bring complaints, either to the authorities or to their respective embassies. However, when complaints were made, the government was usually quick to investigate and impose fines and punishment. Employers found guilty of abuses typically were fined or sentenced to prison and ordered to compensate the victim.
- Government protective measures for foreign workers included arrival briefings for workers, inspections of facilities, and a telephone hot line for worker complaints. Government mediation continued to be the most common means used to resolve labor disputes. Abusive employers faced criminal and civil penalties.
- When grievances could not be resolved, repatriation of foreign workers was at the expense of the employer, and all outstanding wages were ordered paid. The majority of abuse cases were settled out of court by the employer paying financial compensation to the worker.
Read the full report on Brunei from here.