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Brunei is a constitutional sultanate, and it achieved independence from England in 1984. The same family has ruled the country for over six centuries.

Type of System

The Judicial branch is composed by Courts of Magistrate, Sharia Courts, and the High Court. The legal system is based on English common law, and for Muslims Sharia law supersedes civil law with regard to marriages and inheritance.

Sources of Defendants' Rights

The 1959 Constitution does not grant any right to defendants in criminal proceedings, as well as any other right. The presence of a defense counsel is not envisioned throughout the entire criminal proceeding, from the investigation phase to the sentencing (Chapter XIX of the Criminal Procedure Code is titled "Trials without the Aid of Assessors”). The system is then based on the defendant’s self representation and participation to the trial. As well, neither the privilege against self-incrimination, nor the presumption of innocence are granted.

Some safeguards are still found in the Brunei Criminal Procedure Code, such as the right to confront accusers, and the right to notice of charges.

Among the most important international human rights instruments, Brunei has ratified only the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW).

Defendants' Rights

Under the Criminal Procedure Code a warrant is required to arrest a person. Nonetheless, the cases when an arrest can be made without a warrant are so broad that almost nullify the previous rule (Sections 19, 28, 33 of the Criminal Code).

The preventive detention and the pre-trial detention do not require a warrant to be executed, if there are reasons to believe that a person has been associated with activities of a criminal nature, and he has to be detained in the interests of public safety, peace and good order. The preventive detention can last up to 3 years, the pre-trial detention can be extended up to 14 days if investigative reasons exist.

Any statement made by any person, including a person in the custody of a police officer, made before or after that person is charged and whether in the course of a police investigation or not is admissible as evidence. If that person tenders himself as a witness, he can be cross examined. Courts have to verify if the statement is voluntary questioning both the Prosecutor and the defendant.

See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World and Legal Aid in ASEAN countries


  • 2009 Prison Population: 423 people for a population of 400,000. This means 106 detainees for 100,000 people, of which 8.3% in pre-trial detention.
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