Brunei Darussalam

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Persistent violations
  • Low minimum age of criminal responsibility[1]
  • Inadequate and inappropriate juvenile justice system[2]
  • Corporal punishment[3]
  • Ill-treatment and abuse of children[4]
  • Discrimination against, and inadequate protection for, vulnerable groups of children[5]
  • Lack of compulsory education[6]

For more details, go here

  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review


Located on the north coast of the Island of Borneo, densely forested Brunei Darussalam is surrounded and divided in two by Malaysia. The country became fully independent from Britain in 1984, and has experienced significant economic success off the back of it’s large reserves of oil and gas. Brunei’s punitive juvenile justice system is among the State’s most overt violations of children’s rights: children as young as seven can be held criminally responsible and boys can be sentenced to whipping as a judicial penalty.


Brunei Darusaslam is located on the island of Borneo, with a coastline along the South China Sea. The country's territory surrounded and divided into two by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The capital city is Bandar Seri Begawan.

Population and Language

The country is home to 405,900 people, a population that is growing steadily at an annual rate of between 1.7 to 2 per cent.[1] The majority of the population are of Malay descent though there are substantial Chinese communities and a number of indigenous groups. Malay, English and Chinese languages are all widely spoken.[2]

History and Politics

Brunei was the dominant power in south east Asia throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, and at one point controlled territories as far away as the Philippines. Prolonged civil war led to the break up of the country throughout the 17th century, a process that accelerated by the ceding of extensive territories in Borneo to the Brooke family in what is now Malaysia. In 1905, Brunei became a British Protectorate, a relationship which gradually shifted to increased domestic control until the country gained full independence in 1984.

Since 1962, the Sultan has ruled by decree, powers he assumed following the success of the leftist Brunei People's Party in elections to the Legislative Council. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has been in power since 1967 and holds the position of Head of State, Prime Minister and the ministerial portfolios of defence and finance. The Sultan also appoints the 13 other members of the cabinet. In the years that followed independence, two political parties were established, but both were banned in 1988. In 2004, Constitutional amendments were implemented which revived the Legislative Council and envisioned its expansion to include up to 15 elected members, but no date has been set for elections.[3]


Brunei's economy is dominated by the energy industry, particularly gas oil and gas, which accounts for 94 per cent of government revenue, 96 per cent of exports and 69 per cent of GDP. The wealth that has emerged from the industry has led to high standard of living and stability, though commentators have questioned how Brunei will develop when oil and gas reserves are exhausted in 20 to 30 years time.[4] In 2008, the Bruneian government launched its first-long term national development plan, which includes a series of measures to decrease the country's dependence on oil and gas, including developments in education and the tourism industry.[5]

Media and Civil Society

In recent years there have been no reports of attacks on or harassment of journalists, but a number of legal restrictions and less overt forms of censorship affect media operating in the country. Newspapers are required to obtain annual government approval to work as journalists and the Government has the power to shut down media outlets and bar the distribution of foreign publications. The Sedition Act 2005 extended the list of punishable press offences to include criticism of the Sultan, the royal family or the prominence of the national philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy. Local broadcast outlets, including the only TV station, are operated by the government controlled by Radio Television Brunei.[6]

Reporters Without Borders rated the country 125 out of 179 in its 2011/12 Press Freedom Index.[7]

Human Rights and Children's Rights

Brunei has been widely criticised for its juvenile justice policy, which provides for a very low age of criminal responsibility (7 years) and for the whipping of boys as a judicial penalty.[8] National criminal legislation also allows for life imprisonment for offences committed by children.[9]


Quick Facts

  • Population: 412,900 (UNDP, 2012)
  • Population under 18: 124,000 (UNICEF, 2011)
  • Number of internet users: 318,900 (78% of the population) (Internet World Stats, 2010)
  • Human Development Index ranking: 30 (UNDP, 2012)
  • Happy Planet ranking: N/A