George Clooney urges boycott of Brunei-owned hotels over death penalty for homosexuality
Oscar-winning actor George Clooney has called for a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei because of the nation’s plans to impose the death penalty for people having gay sex or committing adultery.
Brunei, a former British protectorate, has stated it will roll out new Sharia law punishments from April 3 that include death by stoning or whipping for sodomy, adultery, or rape.
In an opinion piece for Hollywood entertainment website Deadline.com on Thursday, Clooney wrote that “every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery”.
The Brunei Investment Company owns nine hotels in the United States and Europe, including the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Dorchester in London, and the Plaza Athenee in Paris.
The Brunei Investment Company and the Brunei Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to emailed requests for comment on Friday.
Clooney, who is also a political activist and one of the most influential names in Hollywood, said he had stayed at many of the hotels himself “because I hadn’t done my homework and didn’t know who owned them”.
The Gravity actor acknowledged that any boycott would likely have “little effect on changing these laws”.
But, he added: “You can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way”.
Clooney’s call was supported by movie director Dustin Lance Black, and American singers Rufus Wainwright and Belinda Carlisle under the Twitter hashtag #BoycottBrunei.
Politicians in Britain and Europe, Amnesty International and human rights groups in Asia have attacked the plans and raised concerns with Brunei.
The population of 400,000 — 67 per cent of whom are Muslim and therefore subject to the Sharia law — is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s most prominent LGBT activists, said it would be a gross violation of international human rights if the changes went ahead.
“It is horrible. Brunei is imitating the most conservative Arab states,” he said.
Homosexuality is punishable by death in several Muslim-majority countries, including death by stoning in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania.
Australia joins call to condemn law changes
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Australia had expressed its concerns about the laws to the Brunei Government.
“We are strong supporters of human rights right across this region and more broadly, including in Brunei,” Senator Payne said.
“We are absolute opponents of the death penalty in all circumstances so any suggestion that laws would facilitate the application of the death penalty is a matter of concern to Australia.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called on Brunei to abandon the changes, arguing they would breach the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
“Consistent with Australia’s long-standing and bipartisan support for universal, indivisible and inalienable human rights, Labor is fundamentally opposed to the oppression of anyone on the grounds of their gender, sexual orientation or their religious beliefs,” he said.
Similar boycott held in 2014
Homosexuality is illegal in Brunei and punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment in the tiny oil-rich sultanate.
But under the changes Brunei will become the first Asian country to make homosexuality punishable by death.
Brunei was the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law in 2014 when it announced the first of three stages of legal changes that included fines or jail for offences such as pregnancy outside marriage or failing to pray on Friday.
A similar boycott was undertaken by celebrities like comedians Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno and British entrepreneur Richard Branson when Brunei brought in Islamic Sharia law penalties in 2014.
In 2015, Christmas celebrations were banned and religious followers warned it would be strictly enforced for fear Muslims could be led astray.
Punishment for violating the ban is a five-year jail sentence, and the Government said Muslims would be committing an offence if they even wore “hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus”.