“Let’s be clear,” writes actor George Clooney. “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.”
Starting April 3, the small country of Brunei plans to implement a new penal code that would make homosexuality punishable by being stoned to death. In the wake of this disturbing news, actor George Clooney penned an op-ed for Deadline, calling for a boycott of Dorchester Collection hotels owned by Brunei Investment Agency, which is itself owned by Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei.
“Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?” —George Clooney
Brunei quietly passed the new penal code at the end of December, but it only made its way into international headlines this month, as the enactment of the new law looms. The new penal code will also make adultery punishable by being stoned to death. And, according to Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International, it “would allow amputation as punishments—including for children.”
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Clooney addresses the reality that a boycott isn’t necessarily going to lead to a monarchy changing its laws, but that doesn’t mean patrons should be complacent about financing such regimes. “Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?” writes Clooney. “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 nine hotels included in the boycott are The Dorchester (London), 45 Park Lane (London), Coworth Park (England), The Beverly Hills Hotel (Los Angeles), Hotel Bel-Air (Los Angeles), Le Meurice (Paris), Hotel Plaza Athenee (Paris), Hotel Eden (Rome), Hotel Principe di Savoia (Milan). Though Brunei is a small country on the island of Borneo, the Sultan, is estimated to have a personal worth of $20 billion—making him the second richest royal on the planet and undoubtedly one of the wealthiest world leaders overall.
Clooney is candid about the fact that he has recently stayed in some of these hotels, even after participating in a previous boycott of the properties when Brunei initially announced in 2014 that it would be basing its new penal code on Sharia law. (Though homosexual acts are illegal under the religious set of laws, contemporary Islamic scholars are not so black and white in their scriptural interpretations with regard to same-sex intimacy.) Clooney further cautions that while “the white heat of outrage moves on to the hundred other reasons to be outraged, the focus dies down and slowly these hotels get back to the business of business. And the Brunei Investment Agency counts on that.”
“If you continue to stay at or frequent the Beverly Hills Hotel, you are guilty of financially supporting these murderers.” —Dustin Lance Black
Several of Clooney’s Hollywood brethren have voiced their support for the boycott. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis tweeted, “I stand with George Clooney, a good man doing the right thing, fighting an unjust and barbaric law.” Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black wrote a blunt tweet that stated, “If you continue to stay at or frequent the Beverly Hills Hotel, you are guilty of financially supporting these murderers.” Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness tweeted that in spite of “reservations for the local economies these hotels support … I have to agree. We can’t support this legislation with our funds.”
When reached for comment, the Dorchester Collection, provided the following statement: “Dorchester Collections’ Code emphasises equality, respect and integrity in all areas of our operation, and strongly values people and cultural diversity amongst our guests and employees. Inclusion and diversity remain core beliefs as we do not tolerate any form of discrimination.”
Brunei joins the list of countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Somalia all have the death penalty for homosexuality. United Arab Emirates’ federal penal code states that “sodomy with a male” is punishable by death, but a report by Amnesty International states that it could find no instances of such a death penalty being enacted.