Adultery and gay sex will be punishable by stoning to death and the limbs of convicted thieves will be amputated under a new law set to come into effect from next week in the tiny southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei.

A new strict Sharia penal code is to be enforced from next Wednesday defying heavy criticism that has kept the brutal provisions on hold for the last four years.

Homosexuality is already illegal in the former British protectorate, but now it will become a capital offence. The law only applies to Muslims and punishment will also be "witnessed by a group of Muslims."

Human rights groups who have lobbied against the enshrining of "cruel and inhuman punishments" reacted with horror at the decision to plough ahead with the extreme aspects of the penal code, the Daily Telegraph reports.


Amnesty International demanded an "immediate halt" to plans for vicious punishments so "heinous" that they allowed for the amputation of children's limbs.

"The international community must urgently condemn Brunei's move to put these cruel penalties into practice," said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty's Brunei Researcher.

"To legalise such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself. Some of the potential 'offences' should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender," she added.

The tiny, resource-rich sultanate has a population of just over 450,000 and is located on the island of Borneo, next to the more moderate Islamic nations of Indonesia and Malaysia.

In comparison to its neighbours, Brunei has grown conservative in recent years, including banning the sale of alcohol and introducing stiff penalties for open and excessive Christmas celebrations, for fear that its Muslim population could be led astray.

There was widespread international condemnation when Brunei first announced the roll-out of the Sharia penal code – an Islamic legal system which prescribes strict corporal punishments - in 2014.

The implementation of the law has since been delayed as officials work out the practical details under heavy opposition from rights groups.

A notice on Brunei's Attorney General's Chambers dated December 29 last year quietly announced that the provisions would take effect on April 3.


However, a religious affairs ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei's leader, was expected to make an announcement on that date about the enforcement of Sharia.

"Only after the event we will know regarding the date of the implementation of the new laws," he told AFP.