Oscar & Golden Globe winning actor George Clooney, in an opinion piece he wrote for entertainment business media outlet DEADLINE-Hollywood, is calling for a fresh boycott of nine hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, which include The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. This call for a boycott coming after the announcement earlier this past week that the government of Brunei, which is headed by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, will impose the death penalty on persons convicted of having ‘homosexual sex,’ starting Wednesday April 3, 2019.
Clooney wrote:“On this particular April 3rd (2019) the nation of Brunei will begin stoning and whipping to death any of its citizens that are proved to be gay. Let that sink in. In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone.”
The Sultan, who has sole proprietorship of the Brunei Investment Agency, (BIA) which owns the nine luxury hotel Dorchester Collection, acquired those two Los Angeles metroplex properties in 1992.
In October of 2013, he had announced that he was implementing the Islamic penal code called Sharia for his country. Sharia calls for, among other punishments, public flogging of women who have abortions, amputation of limbs for thieves. and death by stoning for persons convicted of having ‘homosexual sex.’ By May of 2014 there were boycotts of Dorchester Collection properties which included The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air, after Brunei began the introduction of a Sharia Criminal Code, to run in parallel with the Common Law.
This past December 29, 2018 the introduction of the ‘final phase’ was announced culminating with the death by stoning penalty for homosexual sex by April 3rd, 2019.
Those 2014 boycotts were led by LGBTQ activists and celebrities like Cleve Jones, James Duke Mason, Jay Leno, Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, and Clooney. However, as The Hollywood Reporter noted in a February 27, 2015 piece, “Maybe the siren call of those McCarthy Salads at The Polo Lounge is just too tempting. Less than a year after Hollywood loudly boycotted The Beverly Hills Hotel after its owner, the sultan of Brunei, implemented the anti-gay Sharia law in his country, some industryites are creeping back. Making it safe: visitors who either are out or maintain close ties to the LGBT community.
Among them are producer Megan Ellison (she sat at the downstairs coffee shop Jan. 28), Miley Cyrus (she stopped by with boyfriend Patrick Schwarzenegger on Jan. 10) and Dita Von Teese (who Instagrammed a shot of herself there Feb. 1).”
Also at play was whether or not the boycott would be effective, or as Vanity Fair columnist Mark Seal wrote in a July 16, 2014 column, “By late May, the hotel had lost $2 million in cancellations, and the damage had radiated to the sultan’s other Dorchester Collection hotels, including the Dorchester, in London, and Le Meurice, in Paris […] Ironically, the boycott has victimized the very people that the union has been trying to protect: the hotel’s 650 employees.”
In his piece today however, Clooney argued, “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.
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.”
Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Brunei Researcher at Amnesty International told the Los Angeles Blade in an emailed statement,
“Brunei must immediately halt its plans to implement these vicious punishments, and revise its Penal Code in compliance with its human rights obligations. The international community must urgently condemn Brunei’s move to put these cruel penalties into practice.”
A State Department spokesperson on Friday said the U.S. “is concerned with Brunei’s decision to implement Phases Two and Three of the Sharia Penal Code. Some of the punishments in the law appear inconsistent with international human rights obligations, including with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
“We have encouraged Brunei to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 2015, and to sign, ratify, and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” added the spokesperson in a statement to the Los Angeles Blade.
STATEMENT FROM ELTON JOHN (who previously has led boycotts against Brunei owned properties): “I believe that love is love and being able to love as we choose is a basic human right. Wherever we go, my husband David and I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect – as do each and every one of the millions of LGBTQ+ people around the world.
Discrimination on the basis of sexuality is plain wrong and has no place in any society. That’s why I commend my friend, George Clooney, for taking a stand and calling out the anti-gay discrimination and bigotry now being enshrined in law in the nation of Brunei, a place where gay people are brutalized or worse. As George has said, the Sultan of Brunei owns many luxury hotels around the world – hotels which David and I have found it impossible to visit since the Sultan’s plan to push for shar’ia law in Brunei became public. Our hearts go out to the good, hardworking employees of these properties, many of whom we know to be gay.
We recognise that sovereign countries will make decisions for their own citizens. But we feel we must send a message, however we can, that such treatment is unacceptable. We must never underestimate the power of our voices – and our actions – to spark the change we need to see.”
Reporting by DEADLINE-Hollywood, The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair, and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade.