WASHINGTON - Brunei would violate international standards on human rights if the oil-rich sultanate presses ahead with stoning and other punishments under sharia law, an incoming US official said Thursday.
Nina Hachigian, nominated to be the US ambassador for the 10-nation ASEAN bloc, told her Senate confirmation hearing that it was "important that a nation's laws conform with its international obligations on human rights."
"Some of the physical, corporal punishments associated with law, if implemented as you point out, would be inconsistent with international obligations," she said in response to a question by Senator Chris Murphy.
The sultan of the tiny petro-state announced last month that he would go ahead with enforcement of Islamic sharia law that will eventually include flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning.
The news has sparked a furor in the entertainment industry with celebrities including US talk show hosts Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, and British tycoon Richard Branson, advocating a boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and other properties in the Dorchester Collection, a hotel chain owned by Brunei's sovereign wealth fund.
The US State Department earlier said that the US ambassador to Brunei, Daniel Shields, raised his concerns to Brunei.
Hachigian is expected to be confirmed as the second US ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Brunei is a member.
US President Barack Obama's administration established a US mission to the regional body in 2010 as part of a policy of paying more attention to Southeast Asia.
Hachigian, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank, said that she would encourage ASEAN to make stronger joint statements and repeated US criticism of China's "provocative" steps in the dispute-ridden South China Sea.