The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar


TITLE:  BRUNEI HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                             BRUNEI


Brunei Darussalam is a small, wealthy monarchy located on the 
north coast of Borneo.  The population of roughly 290,000 is 
predominantly Malay (65 percent).  Chinese (15 percent), 
indigenous peoples (6 percent), and foreign residents (14 
percent) make up the remainder.  Brunei is a hereditary 
sultanate ruled by the same family for 600 years.  It became a 
British protectorate in 1888 and fully independent in 1984.

The 1959 Constitution provided for the first delegation of 
political power by the Sultan.  In 1962 the Sultan invoked an 
article of the Constitution that allowed him to assume 
emergency powers for 2 years.  These have been regularly 
renewed and remain in force.  Although not all of the articles 
of the Constitution are suspended, the state of emergency 
places few limits on the Sultan's power.  He also serves as 
Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Dean of the National 
University, and chief religious leader.

The police force, which has responsibility for internal 
security, reports to the Prime Minister's office and is firmly 
under the control of civil authorities.

Brunei produces an average of 160,000 barrels of oil per day 
and about 5.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year.  
This bountiful natural resource endowment, in combination with 
Brunei's small population, gives it one of the world's highest 
per capita gross national products.

In September Brunei participated in the issuance of the Kuala 
Lumpur Declaration which, among other things, confirmed the 
right of "all human beings, without distinction as to race, 
color, sex, language, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, 
family or social status, or personal convictions, to freedom of 
thought, opinion, conscience, and religion."  The Declaration 
also affirmed the right of citizens "freely to determine their 
political status."  Nothing in Brunei's Constitution or laws 
states that its citizens cannot change their government.  In 
practice, however, citizens do not have this right.  Bruneians 
generally eschew political activity of any kind, knowing that 
such activity will be disapproved by the Government and ruler 
and may lead to punishment.  Nor do Bruneians genuinely 
exercise the freedoms of speech, press, and association 
provided for in the Constitution.  Other human rights abuses, 
including mandatory flogging of prisoners for certain offenses, 
discrimination against women, and circumscription of religious 
freedom continued in 1993.


RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

In 1988 whipping with a cane became mandatory punishment for 42 
criminal and drug-related offenses and for vandalism.  Since 
then sentences of whipping have been handed down and carried 
out in the presence of a doctor who monitors implementation and 
has the authority to interrupt and postpone the punishment for 
medical reasons.  The incidence of crime in Brunei is low, and 
caning is infrequent.  

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution has no provision for habeas corpus.  While 
legislative provisions granting the right of habeas corpus 
exist, those provisions, like the Constitution itself, may be 
superseded, either partially or wholly, through invocation of 
the emergency powers.  No such action has occurred to date.  
Police officers have broad powers to arrest people without 
warrants.  However, under normal circumstances, a magistrate 
must endorse a warrant for arrest.  Warrants are issued without 
this endorsement on rare occasions, such as when police are 
unable to obtain the endorsement in time to prevent the flight 
of a suspect.  The Internal Security Act (ISA) permits the 
Government to detain suspects without trial for renewable 
2-year periods.  The Government has occasionally used the ISA 
to detain persons suspected of antigovernment activity.

Brunei's prison population is not large.  Prisoners are not 
known to be abused.  The several facilities for prisoners range 
from adequate, for the short-term "lockup," to good, for the 
long-term prison at Jerudong.


     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Bruneian judicial system consists of five levels of courts, 
with final recourse available through the Privy Council in 
London.  Although there is no trial by jury, procedural 
safeguards are available, including the right to defense 
counsel, the right to an interpreter, the right to a speedy 
trial, and the right to confront accusers.  There were no known 
instances of government interference with the judiciary in 1993 
and no trials of political opponents.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Although the Government is empowered by law to intrude into the 
privacy of individual persons, families, or homes, this rarely 
happens.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not restricted 
by law, but the Government frequently censors international 
newspapers and periodicals by removing or blacking out articles 
or photographs found to be objectionable.  In 1993 articles 
were subject to censorship if they were potentially 
embarrassing to Brunei's royal family, critical of the 
Government or the Sultan, or were judged improper by the 
censors.  The growing use of facsimile (FAX) machines makes it 
increasingly difficult to keep such material from entering 
Brunei.  The independently owned local newspaper practices 
self-censorship by avoiding issues it knows the Government 
would object to.  The only television station is government 
owned.  (The broadcasts of two Malaysian television stations 
can also be received.)  Because of the almost total absence of 
criticism or opposing views, the Government's tolerance of 
political criticism has not been effectively tested recently.  
In the past it has not hesitated to arrest those who attempted 
to espouse unwelcome political views.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom to assemble for political purposes also has not been 
seriously tested in recent years.  Following the 1967 ban on 
political parties, the Government allowed two parties to form 
in 1985 and 1986.  The Government severely restricted 
membership in both parties, disbanding one of them in 1988.  
The other political party, the Brunei National Solidarity 
Party, lingers on with a few dozen members. 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution states, "The religion of Brunei Darussalam 
shall be the Muslim religion according to the Shafeite sect of 
that religion:  provided that all other religions may be 
practiced in peace and harmony by the person professing them in 
any part of Brunei Darrussalam."

In 1991 the Government began to reinforce the legitimacy of the 
hereditary monarchy and the observance of traditional Bruneian 
and Muslim values by reasserting a national ideology known as 
the Malaya Islam Beraja (MIB) or "Malay Muslim Monarchy," the 
genesis of which reportedly dates back to the 15th century.  
The resulting Islamization of Bruneian society has created a 
variety of impediments to the full and unconstrained exercise 
of religious freedom called for in the Constitution and in the 
recent Kuala Lumpur Declaration.  Despite constitutional 
guarantees and the Kuala Lumpur Declaration, the Government 
routinely restricts the practice of non-Muslim religions by:  
prohibiting proselytizing; occasionally denying entry to 
foreign clergy or particular priests, bishops, or ministers; 
banning the importation of religious teaching materials or 
scriptures such as the Bible; and refusing permission to 
expand, repair, or build new churches, temples, and shrines.  
The Ministry of Education has also restricted the teaching of 
the history of religion or other courses in religion in 
non-Islamic schools while requiring courses on Islam or the MIB 
in all schools.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

While the movement of former political prisoners was restricted 
during the first year of their release, there were no 
restrictions on freedom of movement in the country for most 
citizens, permanent residents, and expatriates.  The Government 
places some contractual restrictions on foreign travel for 
certain expatriate employees, but this is limited to the first 
year of the contract.  While Brunei has not been willing to 
accept asylum seekers, it has agreed in principle, and subject 
to certain reservations, to the Comprehensive Plan of Action 
adopted by the 1989 International Conference on Indochinese 
Refugees.


Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Bruneian citizens are unable to change their government through 
established democratic processes.  Under the continuing state 
of emergency, there is no parliament, and political authority 
and control rests in the hands of the ruling monarch.  
Individual citizens may seek to express their views or 
influence government decisions and policies by petitioning the 
Sultan or handing him letters when he appears in public.  The 
only form of popular representation lies in a traditional 
system of village chiefs, who, under a new system inaugurated 
in 1992, are elected by secret ballot at meetings in which all 
adults may participate and vote.  Once elected, village chiefs 
serve for life.  Candidates must meet 2-year village residency 
requirements; have a knowledge of Islam, though they need not 
be Muslims; and have no current or past involvement with any 
political party.  These leaders communicate constituents' 
wishes through a variety of channels, including periodic 
meetings, chaired by the Home Affairs Minister, with several 
officials appointed by the Sultan.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no government or private organizations in Brunei that 
deal specifically with the protection of human rights.  Given 
the tight restrictions on freedom of speech and press and the 
Government's unwillingness to tolerate criticism, any group or 
individual attempting to investigate and report publicly on 
human rights issues would face severe constraints.  There were 
no known allegations of abuses or requests to visit by 
international human rights groups.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

Based on Koranic precepts, women in Brunei are denied equal 
status with men in a number of important areas such as divorce, 
inheritance, and custody of children.  Under the Brunei 
Nationality Act, citizenship is passed on through the male 
only.  Female citizens of Brunei who are married to foreigners 
or bear children by foreign fathers cannot pass on Bruneian 
citizenship to their children, even when such children are born 
in Brunei.  This has resulted in creation of a sizable 
population of stateless children, estimated at more than 5,000 
residents, who are entitled to live in Brunei and be documented 
for travel by the Government, but who cannot enjoy the full 
privileges of citizenship, including the right to own land.

Although men are eligible for permanent positions in government 
service whether or not they hold university degrees, women who 
do not have university degrees are eligible to hold government 
positions only on a month-to-month basis.  While recent changes 
eliminated some previous inequities, women in month-to-month 
positions continue to receive slightly less annual leave and 
fewer allowances than their male and female counterparts in 
permanent positions.

There are no separate pay scales for men and women, and in 
recent years there has been a major influx of women into the 
work force. Women serve in a wide variety of capacities in 
Brunei's armed forces, although they may not serve in combat.  
At the junior and middle levels of Brunei's large government 
bureaucracy there are now substantial numbers of women. 
Maternity leaves of 56 workdays are now granted to women 
regardless of whether they hold permanent or month-to-month 
positions and may be taken at any time before or after 
delivery.  The number of female university graduates is 
increasing, and nearly two-thirds of the National University's 
entering class is female.

A woman now serves as an intermediate court judge, the highest 
judicial position held by Bruneians, and sat recently with a 
foreign high court judge in a capital case involving a foreign 
woman.  Nevertheless, at higher levels of the bureaucracy a 
clear pattern of discrimination exists.  Since independence, no 
woman has been appointed to ministerial rank; and women 
continue to be passed over despite the fact that there are by 
now a number of well-qualified candidates for promotion to 
positions at permanent secretary and deputy minister levels.

Religious authorities strongly encourage Brunei Muslim women to 
wear the tudong, a traditional head covering, and many women do 
so.  Some Muslim women do not, however, and there is no 
pressure on non-Muslim women to do so.  The incidence of rape 
or domestic violence against women appears to be relatively 
low, though the extent to which either may occur and go 
unreported is not known.


The criminal penalty for a minor domestic assault is 1 to 2 
weeks in jail and a fine.  An assault resulting in serious 
injury would be punished by whipping and a longer jail 
sentence.  One area of apparent abuse involves female domestic 
servants.  While the level of violence in Bruneian society is 
comparatively low, there is less taboo about the beating of 
servants--or refusing them the right to leave the house on days 
off, sometimes on grounds that they "might encounter the wrong 
company."  Since most domestics are foreign workers, who are 
reasonably well paid and highly dependent on their employers 
for continued employment, those subject to abuse may be 
unwilling or unable to bring complaints, either to Bruneian 
authorities or to their governments' embassies in Brunei.  When 
such complaints are brought, however, the Government is 
generally quick to take action, including the imposition of 
fines and punishment.

     Children

While published statistics regarding the welfare of children, 
and crimes against children do not exist, the strong commitment 
to family within Bruneian society, the country's high standard 
of living, and government funding for children's welfare 
guarantee almost all children growing up in Brunei a healthy 
and nurturing environment.  With a few exceptions involving 
small villages in extremely remote areas, nutrition standards 
are high and poverty is almost unknown.  Instances of child 
abuse appear low.

The Government's commitment to the welfare of children is 
demonstrated in Brunei's hospitals where health care is free 
for all citizens.  This includes rural hospitals and traveling 
clinics which provide high levels of health care and public 
health outreach programs.  There are excellent prenatal, 
neonatal, and postnatal programs, free childhood immunization, 
and rehabilitation and physical therapy programs for injured, 
sick, or handicapped children.

     Indigenous People

Six percent of Brunei's population is comprised of indigenous 
peoples.  They have long been integrated into Bruneian society, 
although a few still live in remote jungle areas.  They enjoy 
the same rights of land ownership and access to natural 
resources as other Brunei citizens and have never possessed, or 
had a concept of, defined tribal lands.  They are free to 
celebrate traditional festivals and to maintain cultural 
traditions.  Presumably, since most are non-Muslim, they may 
feel the same discomfort as other minority groups over the 
Government's active efforts, particularly through the Ministry 
of Education's directives to schools, to inculcate in all 
citizens the concept of the MIB.  There is no apparent pattern 
of job discrimination against indigenous peoples, a number of 
whom have risen to high positions such as deputy director of 
the Anticrime Bureau, registrar of the University of Brunei 
Darussalam, and commanding officer of the Royal Bruneian Armed 
Forces' special combat squadron.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Few of the substantial Chinese minority, constituting 15 
percent of the population, are citizens.  Those having no 
claims to other nationalities were "British-protected persons" 
prior to independence, and are now stateless and either 
permanent or temporary residents.  Noncitizens may not own land 
but may hold property through long-term leases.

The process of obtaining citizenship in Brunei is long and 
difficult.  Many aspirants complain that the Malay-language 
test required for citizenship is administered so rigorously 
that it is almost impossible for a nonnative speaker to pass. 

In general, however, the Chinese community, which conducts much 
of the country's commercial activity, has prospered in Brunei.  
While the Chinese have done well economically, and some hold 
key governmental positions, including one position at the 
permanent secretary level, some are reevaluating their position 
in Brunei, especially the prospects for their children in a 
society in which ethnic Malay citizens are favored in such 
areas as government employment and access to the National 
University, and some Chinese are emigrating.

     People with Disabilities

There are no provisions for easy access to public places and no 
affirmative legislation for the disabled in Brunei.  However, 
the disabled are well integrated into Brunei society and the 
workplace, due mainly to past and ongoing efforts of the 
Government and associations for the disabled to raise public 
consciousness.


Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Trade unions are legal in Brunei but must be registered with 
the Government.  Signatures of seven members are required for 
registration.  There are four registered trade unions, all of 
them in the oil sector, with a total membership amounting to 
less than 5 percent of the work force.  All workers, including 
civil servants other than those serving in the military and 
police, may form or join trade unions.  Unions are independent 
of the Government.  The Trade Unions Act of 1962 permits the 
formation of trade union federations in Brunei but forbids 
affiliation of Brunei's trade unions with labor organizations 
outside Brunei.  An individual contract is required between an 
employer and each employee, but legal trade union activities 
cannot be deemed to violate employee contracts.  Local legal 
experts interpret this provision as conferring the right to 
strike, but there have been no strikes.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Government has not prevented the legal registration of 
trade unions, nor has it dissolved any.  There is no government 
interference with lawful union activity.  It is illegal to 
refuse employment or discriminate against an employee on the 
basis of membership or nonmembership in a trade union.  While 
unions are legal and easy to register, conditions in Brunei are 
not conducive to the development of trade unions.  There is 
little interest on the part of workers in forming trade unions, 
and existing unions are not very active.  Brunei law is silent 
on collective bargaining, and it occurs in only a few 
industries.  There is a lack of those kinds of industries in 
which unions have traditionally developed.  Also, cultural 
tradition favors consensus over confrontation.  Wage and 
benefit packages are based on market conditions and tend to be 
generous.  

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by Chapter 93 of the Laws of Brunei, 
and it is not practiced.


     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Chapter XI of the Labour Enactment Laws of 1954 specifically 
covers the employment of children.  Employment of children 
below the age of 16 is prohibited.  Parental consent and 
approval by the Labor Commission is required for those below 
the age of 18.  Women under 18 may not work at night or on 
offshore oil platforms.  The Labor Department, which is a part 
of the Ministry of Home Affairs, effectively enforces laws on 
the employment of children.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Skilled labor is in short supply, and market forces enable most 
citizens of Brunei to command good salaries.  Brunei has no 
minimum wage.  Overtime is paid for work in excess of 48 hours 
a week, and double time is paid for work performed on legal 
holidays.  Occupational health and safety standards are 
established by government regulations.  Working conditions are 
subject to inspection on a routine basis and in response to 
complaints to Department of Labor (DOL) officials.  The DOL 
generally enforces labor regulations effectively.  However, in 
the unskilled labor sector, enforcement is lax, especially for 
foreign laborers.  The DOL is empowered to close any workplace 
where health, safety, or working conditions are unsatisfactory, 
and it has done so in the past.  (###)


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.