Actor George Clooney has called for a boycott of luxury hotels with ties to the country of Brunei, as the small nation prepares to roll out the final phase of criminal laws which will allow gay people and adulterers to be put to death by stoning.
In 2014, the Sultan of the small, predominantly Islamic nation announced what he referred to as “the enforcement of Sharia law” in Brunei via a revised penal code, which made adultery and homosexuality illegal and punishable by death. The penalty comes into effect from April 3 this year.
In a piece for Deadline, George Clooney highlighted the fact that a number of the world’s fanciest hotels are owned by The Dorchester Collection, an investment group with direct links to the Brunei government, and called for a boycott of them. He wrote:
“They’re nice hotels. The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in the ownership of these properties. But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.”
He went on to say that while a boycott will not realistically make an impact on the oil-rich nation, it might be a gesture that would shame those who do business with them:
“Brunei is a Monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws. But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”
The Dorchester Collection is owned by a wing of the Brunei government known as the Brunei Investment Agency, which was founded by the Sultan in the early 1980s. The hotels that make up its portfolio, per George Clooney, are:
- The Dorchester, London
- 5 Park Lane, London
- Coworth Park, UK
- The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
- Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
- Le Meurice, Paris
- Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
- Hotel Eden, Rome
- Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan
Celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis have backed Clooney in the move:
I stand with George Clooney, a good man doing the right thing, fighting an unjust and barbaric law. George Clooney: Boycott Sultan Of Brunei’s Hotels Laws Against LGBTQs | Deadline https://t.co/fjR2hv1sTb
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) March 28, 2019
George Clooney Calls For Boycott Of Hotels Owned By Sultan Of Brunei Over New LGBTQ Laws https://t.co/HnQjLjKQG9
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) March 30, 2019
There’s a lot to unpack here, but even Republican Ted Cruz, who has a rocky-at-best relationship with LGBT people, appears to have thrown his support behind the boycott:
Here are words I’ve never said before: I agree with George Clooney. Brunei’s laws criminalizing homosexuality — and imposing capital punishment — are immoral, barbaric & inhumane. We should stand united in condemning them & not give our $$ to those who perpetuate oppression. https://t.co/eipC9MiQOk
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 29, 2019
A gay Australian couple who are set to travel through Brunei on a stopover on the way to London recently contacted the government’s Smart Traveler website over concerns for their safety, and were told to “act heterosexual” while in the country.
DFAT‘s website has since updated its safety advice to warn that:
From 3 April 2019 the full sharia penal code (law) takes effect in Brunei. It applies to Muslims, non-Muslim and foreigners even when on Brunei registered aircraft and vessels. Under this code some offences can attract physical punishment while others attract executions. Offences that attract the death penalty include blasphemy, sodomy, adultery, rape and murder (See Laws).
Having said all of that, DFAT’s advice to travellers is still to “exercise normal safety precautions” in the country.