Global nursing body condemns ‘inhuman’ Brunei laws

Howard Catton, chief executive of the ICN, said the organisation was calling on leaders of the Southeast Asian country to “uphold the human rights of all”. 

“ICN considers the death penalty to be cruel, inhuman and unacceptable”

Howard Catton 

The new penal code, introduced on 3 April, imposes death by stoning for sex between men and adultery, as well as amputations for theft and public flogging for abortion.

The ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations, representing more than 20 million nurses worldwide.

It has taken a stand alongside its partners in the World Health Professions Alliance, which also includes the World Medical Association (WMA). 

The alliance speaks for more than 31 million health care professionals across more than 130 countries. 

Mr Catton, who trained as a nurse in the UK and worked for the Royal College of Nursing for a decade before relocating to Geneva to join the ICN, said: “ICN joins our colleagues in the health professions in strongly condemning discrimination against and violence towards vulnerable groups, and considers the death penalty to be cruel, inhuman and unacceptable.

“We call on the government of Brunei to uphold the human rights of all,” he added.

“Participating in such punishments would constitute a gross violation of medical ethics”

Otmar Kloiber

Responding to the introduction of the laws, WMA sent out a warning to all physicians in Brunei not to support it. 

Secretary general of the WMA, Otmar Kloiber, said: “The WMA warns all physicians in Brunei, that participating in such punishments, even advising or preparing for, would constitute a gross violation of medical ethics.”

In response to the backlash around the new penal code, Brunei’s foreign minister, Erywan Yusof, insisted in a letter that new legislation around adultery and gay sex was to “safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage”, and ”does not criminalise nor have any intention to victimise a person’s status based or sexual orientation or belief”.

The minister noted that laws would only apply to Muslims, and that anybody accused would get a “just and fair trial”.

He also highlighted that the punishments of stoning to death and amputation, had “extremely high evidentiary threshold” and requires ”no less than two to four men of high moral standing and piety as witnesses”.