Beginning in April, adulterers in Brunei could find themselves stoned to death. That's because the country today announced that it will in six months begin enforcing sharia criminal law, which also includes such punishments as limb severing for theft and flogging for drinking alcohol. Sharia law will only apply to Muslims, who make up just shy of 70% of the population. Reuters notes that the change, announced by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, has been in the works for years; to wit, the sultan first called for it in 1996. Brunei now becomes the first East Asian country to institute sharia law nationwide, notes the AFP.
A Human Rights Watch director was quick to express his displeasure: "Brunei is showing its feudal characteristics as an 18th-century state rather than an important member of a regional Southeast Asian economic and social consensus in the 21st century." But the sultan seemed to have an eye on the country's place in the world, noting that the update "does not in any way change our policies ... as a member of the family of nations." Reuters calls the line "a possible nod to foreign investors" and points out that the burden of proof with sharia is expected to be very high and judges will be given wide discretion in administering it.