Human Rights: Policy Priority
In 2018, the international community celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and the Human Rights Action Plan, the documents that consolidated the basic democratic principles and requirements for securing and protecting human rights and freedoms, and came to be the legal backbone for the formation of a modern international law in this field.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights became the basis for a wide range of legally binding international treaties on this front. Its provisions have formed the basis for more than 100 international treaties and declarations on human rights, an enormous number of regional conventions, constitutions and national laws in the sphere. Together, they constitute a comprehensive system of binding legal norms designed to promote and protect human rights.
In the contemporary world, bolstering international cooperation in human rights is greatly important for the full achievement of three goals of the United Nations. Moreover, the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principle of cooperation and genuine dialogue with a view to enhancing the capacity of states to fulfill their human rights obligations in the interests of all.
In Uzbekistan, the protection of human rights is considered one of the priorities of interaction with the UN. Today, a sustainable political system has been created in the country that meets modern criteria of democracy and human rights, with actively working legislative, executive and judicial bodies of all levels. Yet crucially, respect for the principles of the rule of law and human rights is affirmed in the Uzbek society.
Issues of observance and protection of human rights are one of the priorities of government policy and of interaction with international partners.
In 2017, our country moved on to the most important stage of its democratic development, the phase of furthering the reforms in all aspects of society. The program of cardinal political and economic transformation was adopted by the President of Uzbekistan in February 2017.
The Strategy of Actions along Five Priority Tracks for the Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021 thus opened a new chapter in democratic reforms and modernization of the country, as well as in the improvement of the system of ensuring individual rights, freedoms and legitimate interests.
The implementation of the Strategy focuses on the radical reform of state and public construction aimed at further strengthening the role of the parliament and political parties in deepening democratic reforms and modernization of the country, enhancing the role of civil institutions in protecting human rights, securing the rule of law and transforming the judicial and legal system. These tasks are fully in sync with the principle “Human interests above everything”.
In 2017, the UN SecretaryGeneral António Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad alHussein visited Uzbekistan.
In order to shore up constructive cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and intensify measures to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, the Uzbek parliament adopted on 16 June 2017 an Action Plan for the Further Development of Cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It consists of more than 90 specific events and 10 sections, while over 30 public and nongovernmental organizations participate in its implementation.
For the first time in 15 years, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shahid, visited Uzbekistan. He got familiarized on-site, first hand, with the work carried out in the country in the sphere of ensuring freedom of religion and belief, as well as the positive experience of the country accumulated in this direction. As a result of the visit, the Uzbek legislature adopted a roadmap to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.
In July 2018, Uzbekistan’s delegation attended the Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion, organized by the US State Department. This week, the US Ambassadorat-large for Religious Freedom, Samuel Brownback, visited our country, during which the UzbekAmerican roundtable discussion on religious freedoms was held for the first time.
In 2018, delegations of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Cotton Campaign, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, met with a number of governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations in Uzbekistan to discuss areas of cooperation in the field of human rights.
The enduring democratic reforms have focused on the improvement of the system of national human rights institutions. Currently, Uzbekistan runs a new extra-judiciary mechanism to protect the rights of entrepreneurs – the office of the Business Ombudsman, which facilitates the introduction of new tools for effective dialogue between business entities and government bodies, creating thus additional guarantees for reliable protection of the rights and legitimate interests of businesses.
The resolution of the President of Uzbekistan “On Additional Measures to Strengthen Guarantees of Citizens’ Rights and Freedoms in Forensic Investigations”, signed 30 November 2017, came as an important milestone in reforming the judicial and legal sphere. In accordance with this document, torture, physical and psychological pressure and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are strictly prohibited in the country with regard to the participants of criminal process or their close relatives. In criminal cases, it is rigorously forbidden to use any illegal data, audio and video materials in particular, as material evidence.
In order to effectively provide for the rights and freedoms of citizens, and spearhead additional monitoring of this activity, a special interrogation complex equipped with shorthand, video surveillance systems, as well as audio and video recording of investigative actions, has been created in the internal affairs bodies.
These measures will contribute to addressing the problems of stringent enforcement of the criminal procedure norm ensuring that everyone who commits crime will be justly punished and no innocent person will be brought to justice. The steps shall also facilitate timely disclosure, complete, comprehensive and impartial investigation of crimes, unconditional observance of the priority of rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of citizens, respect for their honor and dignity in the conduct of inquiry and preliminary investigation, as well as other tasks under the law.
In accordance with the Law “On the Introduction of Amendments and Addenda to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Connection with the Adoption of Measures to Strengthen Guarantees of Citizens’ Rights and Freedoms in Forensic Investigations”, signed 4 April 2018, Article 235 of the Criminal Code has been introduced changes, whose provisions are now consonant with Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture, along with greater responsibility for their use and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Concept of Improving the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan was approved. The principal tracks and objectives of perfecting the criminal and criminal procedural legislation in the country constitute:
- unification of the norms of criminal legislation;
- improvement of the system of criminal liability and punishment;
- provision for the effective and reliable protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, and the interests of society and the state;
- systematization and harmonization of the norms of the criminal procedural legislation;
- perfection of mechanisms for the reliable provision of guarantees for individual rights and freedoms in criminal proceedings;
- introduction of new forms and procedures of criminal process.
With a view to the gradual digitization of the procedure for the production of criminal cases, the introduction of a pilot project “Electronic Criminal Law” is envisaged. The end result of effective implementation of the Concept of Improving the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Legislation should be a full-fledged realization of the principle “Rule of Law – Inevitibility of Liability”.
The 12 May 2018 decree of the President of Uzbekistan envisioning measures to radically raise the prominence of the institution of defense law and enhance lawyers’ independence, provides for steps to fundamentally perk up this system, boost the quality of professional legal assistance and the prestige of this occupation. In particular, the defense lawyer has the right to take measures on pre-trial settlement of disputes, reconciliation of the parties, and also to act as an arbitrator, except for cases when he/she represents one of the parties.
The provision of legal aid by defense lawyers is provided on the basis of a separate license for each chosen specialization. Termination of the lawyer’s actions is carried out exclusively in court following an appeal from the Ministry of Justice on the basis of the conclusion of the High Qualification Commission.
In addition, visits by lawyers to their clients are provided in a timely and unhindered manner in special rooms that do not have audio and video surveillance devices, and without the presence of unauthorized persons, while the visibility of the lawyer and the client must be ensured, with the exception of hearing them by third parties. The lawyer also has the right to bring personal computer, mobile and other communication devices to the building of courts to carry out his professional activities, with the exception of closed trial sessions.
Lawyer inquiries from state and other bodies as well as enterprises, institutions and other organizations for the receipt of reference letters and other documents or their copies necessary for the provision of qualified legal assistance must be executed within a period of not more than fifteen days from the receipt of the request, with the exception of information containing state secrets or other secret protected by law.
Drafts of normative and legal acts on issues related to defense law and legal proceedings are mandatory subject to agreement with the Chamber of Lawyers, and its chairman is entitled to attend meetings of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis to discuss those bills and express views on them.
In order to drastically amplify the role and significance of civil society institutions in the comprehensive and accelerated development of the country, boost their interaction with government and administration bodies, and also the consistent implementation of the tasks identified in the Actions Strategy, the Advisory Council on Civil Society Development was established under the President of Uzbekistan.
The Council consists of representatives of parliament, executive bodies, the academic community and more than 30 non-governmental non-profit organizations.
All draft normative legal acts affecting the rights and legitimate interests of NGOs are necessarily agreed with the National Association of Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations of Uzbekistan.
Currently, public foundations are being established to support NGOs and other civil society institutions under the Zhokargy Kenes of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, the Kengashes of People’s Deputies in the regions and the city of Tashkent, and also, Houses of Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations are set up in the field.
Uzbekistan maintains active and constructive dialogue with the statutory and treaty bodies and specialized agencies of the United Nations and special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.
The government submits timely reports on the implementation of the main international human rights instruments, as well as on follow-up to the recommendations of the treaty bodies.
Over the years of independence, more than 35 national reports of Uzbekistan have been submitted to the UN treaty bodies. During the current session of the UN Human Rights Council, the results of the consideration of the Third Periodic Report of our country in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) were approved.
The Human Rights Council recommendations will be considered in parliament and a National Action Plan (roadmap) is adopted for their implementation in the framework of the Universal Periodic Report of the Human Rights Council.
The Memorandum on Cooperation in Human Rights between the UNDP and Uzbekistan is being successfully realized. The document envisages intensification of interaction in such areas as joint consultations, mutual assistance in the development and implementation of programs and plans aimed at protecting and promoting human rights and freedoms.
Work has begun on the realization of the joint UNDP project designed to promote the implementation of recommendations of UN charter and treaty bodies on human rights in the Republic of Uzbekistan. Preparatory works for the Asian Human Rights Forum are in full swing under this scheme in tandem with the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bishkek.
In conclusion, I would like to share following proposals in the field of the protection of human rights and freedoms.
First. There are currently 1.8 billion young men and women in the world, which is a record indicator of the number of young people in human history. Such a demographic situation offers unprecedented opportunities for social and economic progress. At the same time, the potential of many youth representatives is undermined by violations of their fundamental rights. On the global scale, young people are three times more likely to become unemployed than adults, which means that about 71 million young men and women are looking for work.
During the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed to develop a UN International Convention on the Rights of the Youth, a unified international legal instrument aimed at the formation and implementation of youth policy in the context of globalization and the rapid development of information and communication technologies.
In this regard, we propose to support the elaboration of this universal international document on the rights of young people.
Second. For the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a special program of events was adopted in Uzbekistan. In addition, our country has ordered a contribution of $ 100 thousand to the voluntary fund of UNHCHR.
On 22-23 November 2018, we are organizing, together with UNHCHR and other international partners, the Asian Human Rights Forum in Samarkand dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This forum will aim to develop practical recommendations for improving the existing mechanisms on the protection of human rights and the establishment of novel ones, as well as for securing their interaction, identifying the ways of creating possible sub-regional mechanisms on the protection of human rights, which will prove accessible to everyone.