Human Rights and Liberalization of Judicial and Legal System in Uzbekistan
-- BY Professor A. SAIDOV, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan
The today's Uzbekistan with its 25 million populations geographically and politically presents the basis of Central Asia. One of the most ancient civilizations in the world was born in this region. The great Silk Road passed through its territory in the past. The history of my nation is deeply rooted in the centuries and counts more than 3 thousand years. From the ancient times such cities as Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Termez are well known in the world and their links were spread from China to Spain and from Europe to Indian Ocean.
Uzbekistan declared its independence and entered the period of revival of its cultural, intellectual and legal wealth, as well as democratic reforms in the economic, political and social fields.
Uzbekistan developed its own way of reforming the society and its own model of transition from authoritarian rule to democratic society and determined the concrete directions of state activity in sphere of guaranteeing and protection of Human Rights.
In March 1992 Uzbekistan became the member of UN. Since that time the multilateral cooperation with different UN Human Rights instruments began.
Uzbekistan, as a Member State of the United Nations, makes every effort to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and conscientiously fulfils the obligations it has undertaken under the various international instruments in this field.
INDEPENDENCE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
First of all, I would like to attract your attention to the three moments, which characterize the contemporary situation of human rights in Uzbekistan.
First moment, Uzbekistan is an ancient land with centuries old civilization which is characterized by ethnic, religious, racial, cultural and multilingual tolerance. Rights and fundamental freedoms of more than 100 nations and 14 religious confessions are observed in the country. Not a single case of interethnic or interreligious conflict arose during the years of independence. Despite the difficulties of the transitional period and geopolitical characteristics of the volatile region, Uzbekistan managed to keep political stability, interethnic harmony and sustainable development that create necessary conditions for the protection and promotion of human rights.
Second moment, legislative and institutional systems of protecting human rights were set up in a short historical period in Uzbekistan. International standards on human rights are being implemented into the national legislation. National institutions in the field of human rights such as Authorized person of the parliament for human rights (Ombudsman), National Human Rights Centre and more than 5000 nongovernmental organizations are functioning.
Third moment, Uzbekistan ratified more than 60 international human rights instruments and consequently fulfilling its obligations in good faith, and maintains close cooperation with the UN's charter and treaty bodies special procedures and mechanisms. In short, protection and promotion of human rights have become priority in domestic as well as in foreign policy.
In the years of independence Uzbekistan fulfills the following in the sphere of human rights:
The first. Legislative foundation in the sphere of human rights protection has been created for a short historical period in Uzbekistan. Parliament has adopted over three hundred laws on human rights and fundamental freedoms. The last years, a new edition of the Law about Ombudsman to expand powers of Parliamentary Ombudsman was adopted; Laws on public funds and elections of chairpersons of self-governance institutions of citizens were passed.
The second. By implementing the Vienna Declaration and Program of Actions the system of national institutions for human rights protection has been established. Alongside with traditional law-enforcement system, including court, legal profession, prosecutors office, there functioning such national institutions on human rights, as parliamentary Ombudsman, Constitutional court, National Centre for Human Rights, Institute for monitoring the current legislation, Special Department on human rights under the Ministry of Justice, interdepartmental commissions and groups.
The third. Uzbekistan has created the educational system in the sphere of human rights within the framework of the United Nations decade in the field of human rights education. Special courses entitled to "Human Rights" have been introduced at all schools and universities.
The topic on human rights protection is included into the program on the improvement of professional skills of officers of law-enforcement bodies (judges, lawyers, police, offices of prosecutors). The National Program for raising the legal culture level of the society is successfully being implemented.
The forth. Wide information - educational activity in the sphere of human rights is being conducted within the framework of the UN World Campaign on Public Information in the field of human rights, for example, more than hundred basic international legal documents on human rights have been translated into Uzbek language and published in big circulations. More than thirty juridical newspapers and magazines on human rights protection issues are being published. All mass-media pay special attention to issues of protection of human rights.
The fifth. Based on the rule of law our country established the system of working with complaints on illegal activities of state officials, which includes institutional legal mechanism.
COOPERATION WITH UN TREATY BODIES
Uzbekistan is a party to six major international human rights instruments, namely: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Uzbekistan has submitted to the treaty bodies on abovementioned instruments 18 national reports on compliance with its international obligations.
Until present the treaty bodies have already considered many of those reports. For example, in 2005 the Human Rights Committee considered second national periodic report and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights examined initial report of Uzbekistan.
During very recent period from February to August 2006 only the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered third, fourth and fifth reports; the Committee on the Rights of the Child - second periodic report; the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women - second periodic report.
Uzbekistan has introduced an effective mechanism of implementation of concluding observations and recommendations of the international treaty bodies, namely national plan of actions (NPD). NPDs of Uzbekistan are now widely recognized by many treaty bodies as an effective tool to follow-up their recommendations in the country.
In order to fulfill its international obligations under the above instruments Uzbekistan has adopted more than 300 laws governing human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Uzbekistan is working closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In connection with visits to Central Asia in 2002 and 2004, experts from the Office traveled to Uzbekistan, where they met with representatives of various government institutions.
Uzbekistan is involved in the OHCHR's regional project to provide technical assistance in the area of human rights for Central Asian countries, which began to be implemented in 2004, Moreover, Uzbekistan has promptly responded to all communications or queries received from the Office concerning various human rights issues.
Uzbekistan is also cooperating with the special procedures and mechanisms and punctually sends replies to its communications on various issues concerning Uzbek nationals and the human rights situation in the country.
LIBERALIZATION OF JUDICIAL AND LEGAL SYSTEM
Uzbekistan introduced a completely new concept of judicial system.
In the field of criminal proceedings the following significant measures were taken to maintain the real independence of courts:
1. specialization of courts on criminal, civil and economic cases;
2. establishment of institutes of appeal and cassation for consideration of judicial cases;
3. the law reduced periods of investigation and detention of people, rigid terms for legal proceeding in the courts was established;
4. introduction of democratic legal mechanism for formation of the corpus of judges;
5. functioning of the Department on execution of court judgements, and courts are exempted from functions unusual for them;
6. ensuring the principle of competitiveness, which means equality of the rights of public prosecutors and advocates.
In the field of criminal and penal legislation:
1. classification of crimes was completely changed, structure of criminal offences falling under a category of less heavy crimes and crimes not causing social dangers is essentially expanded. As a result of such approach only for last 2.5 years about five thousand persons who have committed offences not causing big social danger, have not been imprisoned and have contributed material compensations of more than 11 billion sums;
2. conditions for serving the punishment in places of deprivation of liberty are improved: regime and conditions of confinement in colonies were softened. As a result a share of persons who are serving punishments in colonies -- settlements has increased from 7% in 1990 up to 21percent of persons confined in penal institutions in present;
3. increase of clauses, which provide a right of parole. Today by quantity of prisoners (34 thousand persons) on per capita basis Uzbekistan holds best, i.e. last place among the CIS countries. In other words, in Uzbekistan the quantity of prisoners for every hundred thousand people makes up one hundred and fifty eight persons;
4. institute of reconciliation was introduced into the legislation as a form of administration of justice. Enforcement of this institute has enabled to release from the criminal liability over twenty six thousand persons.
The major directions for further liberalization of judicial system were presented in the statement of Islam Karimov, the Uzbek President, during the joint session of the two-chamber parliament of Uzbekistan in January 2005.
Two historical steps were taken within the framework of the liberalization of the judicial system in the beginning of August 2005 year. Here we speak of two Presidential Decrees.
First -- strengthening the judicial review of preliminary investigation processes and pre-trial proceedings. A Presidential Decree has been adopted on 8 August 2005, which introduces the institute of habeas corpus, i.e. transfer of legal proceedings for issuing sanctions on detention, arrest, and also application of other measures of remedial compulsion to courts.
Second -- exclusion of death penalty from the system of punishment. First of all, it is necessary to specify that in Uzbekistan death penalty is not applied against women, minors and persons aged 60 and over. The death penalty is to be abolished in Uzbekistan, starting from 1 January 2008 instead of just moratorium declaration on capital punishment execution.
INTRODUCTION OF THE HABEAS CORPUS INSTITUTE
The most important task of judicial and legal reforms being carried out in Uzbekistan is to ensure the effective protection of the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, first of all, [their] rights to protection against groundless criminal prosecution and interference in his or her private life, and personal immunity, as well as rights to an impartial court hearing.
Considerable work has recently been done in the following areas: ensuring that the law-enforcement bodies act in line with the law; strengthening the judiciary's role as the most important guarantee of the effective protection of human rights; ensuring the true independence of courts; and boosting their role in building a democratic and law-governed state and a strong civil society.
Specialization of courts on criminal, civil and economic cases is fixed legislatively, which has provided for the increase of claims consideration quality, has strengthened guarantees of human rights and freedoms protection. Appeal order of case consideration was introduced, and it serves as a prior guarantee of timely correction of court mistakes, non-admission of red tape in legal proceedings. Cassation instance was reformed: citizens now have opportunity to protect personally and directly their rights in this instance in case of disagreement with the court decision that came into legitimate effect. Legal mechanisms were created, ensuring equality of the rights for protection and prosecution in legal process, realization of their competition principle.
The terms of preliminary investigation were reduced from two years to 12 moths, holding in custody - from 18 to 9 months, and in exceptional case - to 12 moths. The sphere of application of this preventive punishment was limited as well. These measures on liberalization of the national legislation, law application practice have provided for the increase of efficiency and quality of pre-court investigation, jurisdiction, expansion of procedural guarantees of observing the rights of court process participants. As an evidence of liberalization of pre-court investigation taking place in the country, usage of such preventive punishment as holding in custody has decreased more than two times during the past four years.
The most important task of further liberalizing the judicial and legal system is to grant courts more powers in effectively protecting human rights at the stage of pre-trial investigations and, above all, to transfer the right to issue arrest warrants from the prosecution bodies to the courts. This measure will make it possible to considerably improve the effectiveness of the protection of the constitutional rights to freedom and personal immunity. At the same time, this is in full accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and universal principles and norms of international law, which stipulate that rights and freedoms of individuals are indisputable and that no-one has the right to deprive somebody of these rights or limit them outside the courts.
At the same time, the right to issue arrest warrants should be systematically delegated to courts after the following: close analysis and introduction of the necessary amendments and addenda to the Criminal Procedural and Criminal Executive Codes of the Republic of Uzbekistan and other acts of legislation; study of foreign expertise in this area; development of organizational, legal and procedural mechanisms for courts to exercise the right to issue arrest warrants; provision of the necessary training and retraining for judicial and law-enforcement personnel; and execution of other preparatory measures.
With the aim of further liberalizing the judicial and legal system and ensuring the gradual and systematic transfer of the right to sanction the application of measures related to restricting the constitutional rights and freedoms, and in line with Articles 19, 25 and 44 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which define the citizens' rights to judicial protection:
First. The right to issue sanctions to arrest those suspected or accused of committing a crime shall be delegated to the courts as from January 1, 2008.
It should be established that imprisonment should be carried out only in exceptional cases, when the application of other measures of restriction stipulated by the law is ineffective, and that it should be carried out only under a ruling by a criminal court or military court within their powers.
Second. Justice Ministry, Supreme Court, General Prosecutor's Office, Interior Ministry and National Security Service of Uzbekistan have three months to prepare proposals on introducing amendments and addenda to the Criminal Procedural and Criminal Executive Codes of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and to the Uzbek laws "On courts" and "On prosecutor's offices", [amendments and addenda] which regulate the procedure for sanctioning imprisonment and extending custody terms, and which envisage additional guarantees for the observance of the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens and for ensuring their immunity at the pre-trial stage.
At the same time, not only laws and regulations but also the norms and normative acts envisaged by departmental legal documents are to be reconsidered in line with Clause 1 of the decree.
ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY
The most important objective of reforming the legal system of the Republic of Uzbekistan is a gradual stepwise liberalization of criminal, criminal procedural legislation, and the penitentiary system.
Democratic changes in penal policy and law enforcing practice have been positively impacting the social-political and the criminal situation in the country.
The most important direction of liberalization processes in legal system, and criminal punishment, undertaken in the Republic of Uzbekistan, was the gradual narrowing of the sphere of application of death penalty. For the last ten years the number of crimes for which the death penalty was envisaged has been decreased from 33 to 2. In other words, at the moment death penalty is applied only for two crimes --the premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances and acts of terrorism. Along these lines, Uzbekistan is committed to solve this matter from the very first days of independence.
What needs to be emphasized is that the application of the death penalty is banned in Uzbekistan -- first, to those who have not reached the age of puberty, second-women, and third- persons above 60 years of age.
Speaking in numbers, the number of crimes to which the death penalty can be applied, makes up less than one percent of the criminally prosecuted acts in the criminal legislation of the Uzbekistan.
The current penal policy of the state in the area of the capital punishment application is fully in accordance with the world tendency and reflects the principles of humanism and justice, as declared by the Constitution of the country.
In this context it should be noted that we are not speaking of a moratorium for death penalty, as it is practiced in certain states, when a sentenced person waits for execution for years but of its absolute abolition.
At present numerous legislative, informational, educational, organizational and preparatory works aiming at the absolute abolition have been launched in three directions.
Firstly, amendments related to abolition of death penalty and the introduction of life imprisonment or long term sentences will be prepared and adopted to three Codes: the Criminal, the Criminal-Procedural and Penitentiary.
Secondly, the abolition of capital punishment shall call forth the broad informational works among the population to strengthen public perception on the necessity to abolish death penalty. As annual social surveys that are carried out by the nongovernmental public opinion centre indicate the population of the country is against abolishing the death penalty.
Thirdly, we need to undertake entire range of organizational and preparatory works with regard to building complexes and facilities, creating the necessary conditions to place the persons, whom the capital punishment has been substituted to life, or long term imprisonment, and train personnel to work at these facilities.
This is why we need more than two years in order to abolish the death penalty completely. Therefore, the death penalty is being abolished starting from January 1st 2008.
Total abolishment of the death penalty as a type of criminal punishment will be in line with the universally accepted principles and norms of international law and the provisions of the Constitution of Uzbekistan, which stipulates and enshrine the right of person to life.
PREVENTION OF TORTURE
We pay considerable attention to fulfill our obligations within the framework of Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Our efforts are carried out in accordance with basic principles and measures developed by the Committee against Torture in its General Comments and Concluding Remarks on the results of our two reports and recommendations of Mr. Theo van Boven, the Special Rapporteur on Torture as well.
In order to fulfill its obligations on the realization of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and the recommendations of the Committee against Torture as well as that of Special Rapporteur, the following are being accomplished gradually:
First, more than 300 laws on human rights and fundamental freedoms were adopted by parliament in a short historical period. Only during the last years in line with the Article 1 of the Convention against Torture an article containing the notion of "torture" was introduced into the Criminal Code, new edition of the law on Ombudsman aim at broadening the power of parliamentary ombudsman, law on public funds and law on the election of the representative of citizens' self-governing bodies were adopted.
The Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan has adopted a definition of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The prohibition of the use of torture, enshrined in national legislation is absolute and admits no exceptions. Persons charged with the use of torture are prosecuted in accordance with the law. To date, 15 law enforcement officers have been sentenced under article 235 (on the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Second, third National Report on the realization of the provisions of the Convention against Torture was submitted to the Committee against Torture on April. More than 20 government and nongovernmental organizations actively took part in the preparation process of the National Report.
Third, on May 2004 Government of the Uzbekistan adopted Program directed against the use of torture on the basis of the Convention, which includes Special Rapporteur's all 22 recommendations. So far 20 recommendations were implemented completely.
Uzbekistan has been always demonstrating its willingness to corporate with all instrumental human rights bodies, including Committee against Torture and Special Rapporteur on the question of torture.
Thus, significant steps have been taken and continued in order to prevent the cases of torture.
HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION
Construction of a democratic state, where the rule-of-law would prevail, considerably depends on the organizational level of human rights education. The idea given by the United Nations that education is the basis for democracy, speaks of significant burden shared by schools, universities, as well as teachers and lecturers to carry out such task.
Human rights education is considered as one of the main fundamental rights of a human. In the light of the following, human rights education is of great importance:
firstly, observance, protection and promotion of human rights;
secondly, minimization of human rights violations;
thirdly, creation of an effective mechanism for prevention and monitoring human rights violations;
fourthly, formation of universal human rights culture.
Teaching the human rights -- is an important integral part of school education. As it is emphasized by H.E. Islam Karimov, the President of Uzbekistan, "It is important to form new values and sets in people's minds in the context of human rights observance and thus to create a culture, directed to develop respect for human rights and their observance on national level. Person's knowledge of his own rights and obligations should become a prerequisite for realization of constitutional guarantees of human rights".
Modern Uzbekistan -- is the country with high level of literacy and huge scientific and intellectual potential. Education is being provided in seven languages. System of continuous human rights education has been created in the country.
By realizing the Vienna Convention and the Program of Actions, as well as United Nation's other fundamental human rights Documents, Uzbekistan pays a significant attention to human rights education. The Parliament of the country has adopted two National Programs in this direction:
the first -- The National Program for Cadres Training;
the second -- The National Program for Raising the Level of Society's Legal Culture;
Thus, human rights education is a priority direction of educational policy of the Uzbek Government.
At present continuous and complex educational system concerning human rights has been created in Uzbekistan. The special 'Human Rights' academic module is being taught at all the schools and universities.
Human rights are taught in Uzbekistan in three directions:
The first direction. Human rights are taught in the framework of teaching the Uzbek Constitution, during which a significant attention is paid to the constitutional rights, freedoms and obligations of citizens, as well as the system of national human rights institutions.
The second direction. Human rights are taught in the framework of the 'Fundamentals of State and Law' academic module at higher levels of school education, during which a significant attention is paid to legal aspects of realization of human rights and freedoms.
The third direction. Human rights are taught in the framework of the special Human Rights' academic module. The main purpose of this 'Human Rights' course -- is to research the problems of human rights and freedoms from a wide angle view.
Such wide-embracing and systematic approach to human rights education at the schools of the country is in line with obligations of the Republic of Uzbekistan before the international community that had declared the Universal Program on Human Rights Education.
The main tasks of the Human Rights' school module are:
the first -- to provide pupils with knowledge on human rights;
the second -- to strengthen the pupils respect for people, their rights, pride and dignity;
the third -- to develop ability and skills to protect rights and freedoms from various illicit actions independently.
Thus, the Human Rights' academic module aims to demonstrate to pupils that human rights and freedoms -- are complex and multi-angle phenomenon, result of the long legal development history of mankind and his the most high social value. Human rights reflect vital needs for development of a person, frames for his freedom and responsibility. The pupils should get familiar with interrelation between 'Rights' and 'Law', 'rights of a human' and 'rights of a citizen', 'rights' and 'obligations'.
The major aim of human rights education in Uzbekistan -- are to form the pupils' human rights culture, to bring them up to respect human rights and freedoms.
Wide academic and methodological as well as informational and educational activities ar
e being carried out among teachers and pupils of schools in framework of teaching the 'Human Rights' course. Thus, relevant textbooks and curriculums were elaborated and published for the 'Human rights' course. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other international human rights treaties were translated and published in the Uzbek language. All the mass-media pay significant attention to issues of human rights protection, including protection of the rights of the child. There is a successfully functioning school-parliament in Uzbekistan.
We would like to stress on the need for joint elaboration with UNESCO of the International Declaration on Human Rights Education. Human rights education should become an integral part of the United Nations' general strategy: "Education for all".
We once again would like to note the necessity of joint elaboration with UNESCO and approval of an International Declaration on Human Rights Education. Human Rights Education should become an integral part of the general strategy of the United Nations: "Education for All". Therefore, Uzbekistan supports the realization of the World Program on Human Rights.
Finally, once again we would like to state our commitments to the universally recognized principles and norms of the international human rights law, consistently to implement our international obligations in this area and to deepen cooperation with all the international organizations.
NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN AT GLANCE
The National Human Rights centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan was established 10 years ago in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. The Centre carries out its activity in line with the Paris Principles on National Human Rights Institutions.
Centre's main purposes are - elaboration and implementation of the National Programme of Action on Human Rights.
First, The Centre produces National Reports on human rights observance in the Republic of Uzbekistan and submits them to international organizations. Besides, the Centre keeps monitoring of the realization.
Till present 18 National Reports on the implementation of the 6 UN major human rights instruments have been produced and submitted to the treaty bodies. The Centre is a major partner in Uzbekistan for the UN treaty bodies.
The Centre pays a great attention to information received form NGOs in producing National Reports alongside with information provided by other organizations.
Second, elaboration of National Action Plans and National Programmes on human rights.
Thus, till present the Centre has produced National Action Plans concerning the recommendations of the six UN's treaty bodies and the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur Mr. Theo van Boven.
Third, preparation of recommendations for state bodies on improving their activities in the sphere of observance and protection of human rights.
Fourth, provision of consultative services to state bodies, NGOs and citizens as well regarding human rights issues.
Fifth, the Centre actively participates in legislation process.
Thus, the following laws have been drafted with the participation of the Centre:
a) The Law on Ombudsman;
b) The Law Court Executors;
c) The Law on the Execution of Judicial Acts;
d) The Law on Amendments to the Criminal, Criminal Procedural, and Penitentiary Codes;
e) the Law on Mass-Media;
f) The Law on Nongovernmental Organizations;
g) The Law on the social protection of orphans and children without parental tutelage;
h) The Law on Public Funds;
i) The Law on Guaranties on Childs Rights;
j) The Law on Gender Equality and etc.
Sixth, the Centre carries out an enormous informational work:
* Makes educational TV and radio programs;
* Produces textbooks, leaflets, posters;
* Organizes round-tables, seminars, conferences various human rights issues;
* Publication of journals.
As it was noted above, the centre publishes two popular journals- "Democratization and Human Rights" and "Public Opinion. Human Rights". Journals are published in three languages - Uzbek, Russian and English and their main purposes are 1) dissemination of education in the field of human rights; 2) enhancement of legal culture of the employees of state bodies and population on the issues concerning human rights.
The great importance is attached to translation of international human rights instruments into the Uzbek language, as well as to their circulation. Thus, at present we have got 7 popular compilations published in Uzbek, in which over 100 international human rights instruments included.
Hence, during the 10 years of its existence Centre has achieved considerable results that are of invaluable practical importance. Furthermore, Centre is in an active cooperation with the representatives and organizations around the Globe.
Thus, never will be overemphasized the importance of assessing the human rights achievements of the Republic of Uzbekistan from the perspective of what has already been done to build the real democracy.
Certainly, Uzbekistan is presented with challenges of the building of democracy. These challenges are largely objective -- economic difficulties, necessity of maintaining national security, peace and stability in the country.