King’s College London (KCL), has refused to rescind an Honorary Doctorate given to the Sultan of Brunei because of a recently introduced law which makes homosexuality punishable by stoning, following calls from the publisher of PinkNews.
In April the Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah gave approval to Brunei’s revised penal code, which urges death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity.
The Sultan, whose family has governed Brunei for 600 years and whose fortune is estimated at $13 billion (£7.75 billion), received an honorary knighthood from the Queen in 1992 and has been awarded a string of honours by British universities, including KCL in 2011.
At a graduation dinner on Friday, PinkNews publisher Benjamin Cohen called on KCL, where he attended himself ten years ago, to rescind the honour, given the new law.
Appearing as keynote speaker at the dinner, Mr Cohen said: “As someone who is so proud of their degree from King’s College London, I need to say something controversial which is to tell you that as you get your degrees, that some people have got degrees from this university without actually having to do anything, such as the Sultan of Brunei. He recently passed a law in his country to execute gay people by stoning them to death. He also passed a law to execute women who are accused of having affairs.
“And guess what his Honorary Doctorate is in? It is in law, and he has just passed one of the most draconian, awful laws that has been passed on a humans rights perspective in recent years. I hope that as graduates of this university, that you put pressure on the people who run it to say that you cannot give awards to people like that.”
A King’s College London spokesperson said the college would not rescind the honour, given that it was awarded before the new law was introduced.
The spokesperson said: “An Honorary Doctorate was bestowed upon the Sultan of Brunei in April 2011 for his lifelong commitment to higher education. This preceded the introduction of Sharia Law in Brunei. We continue to monitor Foreign Office advice.”
The spokesperson did not yet respond to the question from PinkNews as to whether the Sultan would receive the same honour now.
The Sultan owns several luxurious international hotels under The Dorchester Collection brand.
The King’s College London students’ union also called for the doctorate to be withdrawn.
King’s College currently has contracts with Brunei for medial and military training.
A string of celebrities, including Ellen Degeneres, Stephen Fry, Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson and Sharon Osbourne in April began a boycott campaign against The Dorchester Collection, famous for its Beverly Hills venue.
Beverly Hills council asked the Sultan to sell his Beverly Hills hotel because of his support for the draconian penal code.