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TITLE:  BRUNEI HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995










                             BRUNEI


Brunei Darussalam, a small, wealthy monarchy located on the 
north coast of Borneo, is a sultanate ruled by the same family 
for 600 years.

The 1959 Constitution provided for the first delegation of 
political power by former Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin to an 
appointed council of state, but in 1962 the Sultan invoked an 
article of the Constitution that allowed him to assume 
emergency powers for 2 years.  These powers have been regularly 
renewed, most recently in September by the current Sultan.  
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's large oil and natural gas reserves, coupled with its 
small population, give it one of the world's highest per capita 
gross national products.

Human rights in Brunei remain broadly circumscribed.  In 
practice, citizens do not have the right to change their 
government and they generally eschew political activity of any 
kind, knowing that the Government and ruler will disapprove 
such activity and may punish them.  Nor, constitutional 
provisions notwithstanding, do they genuinely exercise the 
freedoms of speech, press, and association.  Other human rights 
abuses, including discrimination against women and restriction 
of religious freedom, continued in 1994.

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 political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

The media occasionally report on allegations of police 
mistreatment of prisoners, but these reports cannot be 
verified.  In 1988 caning 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.  Reportedly, as many as 50 offenders per year 
are caned.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

While the law provides for a prompt judicial determination of 
the validity of an arrest detention, those provisions, like the 
Constitution itself, may be superseded, either partially or 
wholly, through invocation of the emergency powers.  Moreover, 
the Internal Security Act (ISA) permits the Government to 
detain suspects without trial for renewable 2-year periods.  
The Government occasionally has used the ISA to detain persons 
suspected of antigovernment activity, but apparently did not do 
so in 1994.

Police officers have broad powers to make arrests 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.

A person detained under the ISA was released in April following 
his pledge of loyalty to the Sultan.

     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.  Procedural safeguards include 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 1994 
and no trials of political opponents.

A few political prisoners, probably "returnees" (individuals 
who participated in the 1962 rebellion, fled the country, and 
subsequently returned), are still in prison because of their 
role in the rebellion and their alleged refusal to renounce 
violence and pledge loyalty to the Sultan.

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

Although the law permits government intrusion into the privacy 
of individual persons, families, or homes, this rarely 
happens.  There are sporadic reports of mail having been opened 
prior to delivery.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

While no law restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the 
press, the Government frequently censored international 
newspapers and periodicals by removing or blacking out articles 
or photographs found to be objectionable, particularly those 
potentially embarrassing to Brunei's royal family, critical of 
the Government or the Sultan, or those judged sexually or 
morally improper by censors.  The University of Brunei 
Darussalam (UBD) dismissed an expatriate professor in 1994 for 
writing articles which Bruneian officials deemed objectionable.
However, the growing use of facsimile machines and access to 
satellite transmissions make 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.  It receives 
two Malaysian television channels and several channels of a 
Hong Kong-based network, including the Cable News Network and 
the British Broadcasting Corporation news programs, which it 
rebroadcasts locally on the UHF band.  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 on 
national security grounds those who attempted to propagate 
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 Darussalam."  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 
1993 Kuala Lumpur Declaration.  The Government in 1993 
participated in issuing the Kuala Lumpur Declaration, which 
confirms the right of all persons to a wide range of human 
rights, including freedom of religion.  Despite this, and 
constitutional provisions, 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.  Only the International School, which Bruneian 
citizens or permanent residents generally are not permitted to 
attend, is exempted from these restrictions.

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

The Government restricts the movement of former political 
prisoners during the first year of their release.  Otherwise, 
it generally does not restrict freedom of movement for most 
citizens, permanent residents, and other foreigners.  The 
Government places some contractual restrictions on foreign 
travel for certain expatriate employees, but this is limited to 
the first year of the contract.  Although 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, since 1992, are elected by secret 
ballot by all adults.  These leaders communicate constitutents' 
wishes through a variety of channels, including periodic 
meetings, chaired by the Home Affairs Minister, with several 
officials appointed by the Sultan.

Substantial numbers of women serve at the junior and middle 
levels of Brunei's large government bureaucracy.  Nevertheless, 
at higher levels of the bureaucracy a clear pattern of 
discrimination exists.  Since independence, no woman has been 
appointed to head a ministry, 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.  A woman now 
serves as an intermediate court judge, the highest judicial 
position held by Bruneians.

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

In accordance with 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 males 
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.

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 
official pressure on non-Muslim women to do so.  All female 
students in government-operated schools are required to wear 
the tudong, however, while students in nongovernment schools 
are officially encouraged to wear it.

The extent to which spousal abuse may occur and go unreported 
is not known.  However, in response to a growing perception 
that domestic violence is a serious problem, the police 
established a special unit to investigate allegations of 
spousal abuse in October.  Approximately 20 cases of domestic 
abuse were reported to police in the first half of 1994.  The 
Government has established a shelter for abused women, and 
reportedly there were three residents there in 1994.

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 caning and a longer jail sentence.  
One area of apparent abuse involves female domestic servants.  
While the level of violence in Bruneian society is 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 
female domestics are foreign workers who are highly dependent 
on their employers, 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 investigate allegations of abuse and impose fines and 
punishment as warranted.

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.  
The number of female university graduates is increasing, and 
nearly two-thirds of UBD's entering class is female.

     Children

There are no published statistics 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 provides most children a healthy and 
nurturing environment.  With a few exceptions involving small 
villages in extremely remote areas, nutritional standards are 
high and poverty is almost unknown.  Instances of child abuse 
appear low, and child prostitution seems to be nonexistent.

     Indigenous People

The 6 percent of Brunei's population that is composed of 
indigenous peoples has long been integrated into Bruneian 
society, and enjoys the same rights as other citizens.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Some members of non-Malay minorities, such as ethnic Chinese, 
including those born and raised in Brunei, are not 
automatically accorded citizenship and must travel abroad as 
stateless persons.

     People with Disabilities

While no legislation mandates accessibility or other assistance 
to disabled persons, they are well integrated into Brunei 
society and the workplace, due mainly to past and ongoing 
efforts of the Government and associations 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.  There are three generally inactive registered 
trade unions, all of them in the oil sector, with a total 
membership amounting to less than 5 percent of that industry's 
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 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.  Brunei is not a member of the International Labor 
Organization.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Government has not prevented the legal registration of 
trade unions, nor has it dissolved any.  The Government did not 
interfere 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 are few industries of the kind 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

The law prohibits forced labor, and it is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Chapter XI of the Labor Enactment Laws of 1954 prohibits 
employment of children below the age of 16.  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 Department of Labor (DOL), 
which is a part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, effectively 
enforces laws on the employment of children.  There were no 
reports of violations of the child labor laws in 1994.

     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.  The standard workweek is Monday through Thursday 
and Saturday, with Friday and Sunday off, allowing for two 
24-hour rest periods each week.  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.  The DOL 
inspects working conditions on a routine basis and in response 
to complaints.  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.


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[end of document]

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