Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Pic: AP.

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) — Brunei has embraced a form of Islamic Shariah criminal law that includes harsh penalties, a move slammed by international rights group as a step backward for human rights.

The tiny Southeast Asian nation began Thursday to phase in a version of Shariah that allows for penalties such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery. Most of the punishments can be applied to non-Muslims, who account for about one-third of the 440,000 people in the oil-rich country.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has said the introduction of the law was “not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command” and called it a “great achievement” for Brunei.

Human Rights Watch condemned the move as an “authoritarian move toward brutal medieval punishments that have no place in the modern, 21st century world.”