Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, and the State Department have declined to directly condemn a new law in Brunei stipulating the stoning to death of LGBT people.
Earlier Friday, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told The Daily Beast exclusively that it was “concerned” by the new law, which imposes death by stoning or whipping for sodomy, adultery, or rape, and amputation of a hand or foot for theft.
In follow-up questions, The Daily Beast then asked if Pompeo and the State Department specifically objected to the violently anti-LGBT law, set to take effect on April 3. A spokesperson declined to directly address the question.
Instead, the department issued a more general statement to The Daily Beast: “Governments have an obligation to ensure that all people, including LGBTI people, can freely enjoy the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to which they are entitled. We strongly oppose human rights violations and abuses against LGBTI persons, including violence, the criminalization of LGBTI status or conduct, and serious forms of discrimination.”
The Daily Beast asked again if Pompeo and the State Department had any objections to the Brunei law specifically.
A spokesperson again declined to address the question, via email repeated a portion of the above statement, and wrote that they didn't “have any further comment.”
Earlier on Friday, just after the Beast published a story noting the State Department's silence on the Brunei law, after almost 24 hours and multiple inquiries, the State Department sent the following statement: “The United States is concerned with Brunei’s decision to implement Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code. Some of the punishments in the law appear inconsistent with international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“We have encouraged Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015, and to sign, ratify, and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
A request for comment by Vice President Mike Pence, given his influence when it comes to U.S. foreign policy, was not responded to.
The statements sent to The Daily Beast on Friday by the State Department followed condemnation of the Brunei law from Britain, the European Union, and actor George Clooney, who in an article for Deadline encouraged a boycott of the Sultan of Brunei’s extensive portfolio of luxury hotels.