Judicial Reforms of Uzbekistan - A New Era, New Approaches
During the past period, large-scale legal reforms have been carried out in Uzbekistan, along with all other fields. From the first years of independence, one of the important steps chosen in the way of building civil society was formation of an independent judiciary based on the principle of separation of powers.
Especially over recent years, fundamental changes and reforms have been carried out over the judiciary of our state. According to the Strategy of Actions on Five Priority Areas of Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021, initiated by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan – Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the task of ensuring the rule of law and reforming judicial system was defined as a special priority.
This task, first of all, was directed at ensuring the real and effective protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, achieving true independence of judiciary, strengthening legality, implementing principles of equality and competitiveness of parties in trials, strengthening the role of judicial community bodies in ensuring the true independence of judiciary, implementing principle of the judicial self-governance and ensuring openness and transparency in the formation of judicial corpus.
The large-scale judicial reforms implemented in our state are being positively evaluated by international and foreign experts. Their feedbacks are being echoed in the articles published by independent experts and in their speeches in international events.
The former Minister of Justice of Slovenia - Goran Klimenčič, positively evaluated the changes implemented in the judicial system of Uzbekistan. He marked positively the procedure of announcing court decisions and expressed the view that this procedure shall be carried out by the way of ensuring reliable protection of the personal data of parties to disputes. John Tanheim - former judge of the federal court of the state of Minnesota (USA) shared positive feedback about the judicial reforms, directed at ensuring the independence of courts and judges, having been carried out in the last five years, and noted that Uzbekistan`s such efforts is placing it in the leadership position among other Central Asian states.
It is well-known fact that everyone has the right to demand an independent and impartial judicial proceeding. This right is reflected in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in a number of other international documents as well as is included into our national legislation. Only an independent court can instill confidence that infringed rights can be recovered and protected by an impartial and transparent trial.
In this regard, the reforms planned to be carried out on the basis of the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan envisage further democratization and liberalization of the judiciary, strengthening the true independence of the judiciary, and improving mechanisms for reliable protection of the rights and legal interests of citizens.
The Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated July 24, 2020 “On additional measures to further improve the operation of courts and increase the efficiency of justice” has played a significant role in launching a qualitatively new stage of the systematic reforms. Within the framework of the Decree, the following priority tasks related to the elimination of problems on the way of improving the institutional foundations of justice provisions and ensuring the true independence of the judiciary were implemented:
first, organizational and structural changes have been introduced into the judicial system in order to expand the mechanisms of ensuring the equality and competitiveness of parties to make impartial, transparent and fair court decisions;
second, courts of general jurisdiction of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, regions and Tashkent city have been established on the basis of equivalent courts of civil, criminal and economic matters by the way of maintaining strict specialization of judges and establishing separate judicial panels for court proceedings. Besides this, those courts are chaired by one court chairman. The chairman has his/her deputies, who lead the judicial panels for civil, criminal and economic matters. This serves to form a uniform judicial practice in the localities and to prevent unnecessary waste of resources of physical and legal persons due to the fragmentation of courts;
third, the institution of supervisory review of court decisions has been abolished. As a result, repeated review of court cases in several instances in the order of supervision, unjustified and purposeless increase in the volume of work in the courts have been eliminated, thereby, the emergence of corruption factors has been estopped;
fourth, the procedure for the prosecutor`s participation in court has been adapted to advanced foreign experience and international standards. In particular, legal mechanisms have been created allowing termination of criminal case on the grounds of rehabilitation if public prosecutor withdraws from the charge, recalling cases from courts by the prosecutor only if there is an appeal from the parties, exclusion the participation of the prosecutor on his own initiative during civil and economic proceedings initiated by other parties. Strengthening of such provisions with legal norms has certainly served to ensure the independence of judiciary, the principles of equality and competitiveness of parties in the court;
fifth, the department of cooperation with the public and mass media has been established within the structure of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan. As a result, press services have been established in the structure of regional and equivalent courts. This has become important in ensuring the transparency of the activities of judicial bodies.
The adoption of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Courts” on July 28, 2021 has become a new step towards ensuring the true independence of courts and inviolability of judges, as well as strengthening transparency in the activities of courts. As a result of the establishment of legal guarantees of openness of court cases by the law, the opportunity for media representatives to participate in the court session, without hindrance and to take photos, video and audio recordings in the prescribed manner, have been created.
It is important to note that judicial reforms are not only important for strengthening the independence of courts, but also for expanding the rights of physical and legal persons to submit appeals to courts. In particular, as a result of changes and additions to the laws at the initiative of the Head of State, the following legal guarantees have been introduced, aimed at ensuring the right of individuals to submit claims to courts:
- the current rates of state duties of submitting claims to courts have been revised and reduced;
- from May 6, 2017, the Representative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the protection of rights and legal interests of business entities has been provided with the right to submit claims to courts in the interests of business entities without paying a state duty;
- from October 11, 2017, councils of farmers, farms and landowners have been provided with the right to file claims to courts, in the interests of farmers and landowners without paying the state duty, against the wrongful actions or inactions of state bodies or public officials;
- from July 4, 2018, it has been determined that the paid state duty is to be returned in case if a dispute is resolved through mediation;
- from April 24, 2019, it has been determined that claimant, who submitted a claim to courts regarding the protecting rights of children is to be exempted from paying state duty and other fees;
- from September 3, 2019, victims of harassment and violence have been exempted from paying state duty when submitting claims to court in order to seek compensation for material and moral damages;
- from September 12, 2019, the Agency for the Protection of Consumer Rights has been exempted from paying the state duty on claims submitted to courts for the purpose of protecting consumer rights.
A new judicial structure has been established within the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, empowered with an exclusive right to consider investment disputes and cases related to competition between individuals or legal entities and state bodies, when then amount of the dispute exceeds 20 million US dollars. The parties wishing to submit such claims can refer directly to the Supreme Court, which is entitled to consider such claims as the court of the first instance.
According to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to fundamentally improve the system of financing the activities of judicial bodies”, starting from 2021, it has been determined that the salaries of judges and judicial personnel of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Court, judges of lower courts, staff of the Supreme School of Judges is to be financed from the State Budget of the Republic of Uzbekistan. It can be noted that the adjustment of the monthly salary of judges to international standards corresponds to their social status. This, in turn, demonstrates one of the additional factors of the independence of courts and judges.
The reforms carried out in the last five years aimed at increasing the status of advocates and preventing illegal interference in their activities has led to an increase of the effectiveness of their activities. For example, on May 12, 2018, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to radically increase effectiveness of the institute of bar and expand independence of lawyers” was adopted, according to which the activities of the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Uzbekistan were revised so as to adapt it to meet such aims as: establishing strong and independent bar corpus; creating a transparent system of granting the status of an attorney; strengthening the guarantees of lawyer`s professional activity; introduction of innovation and communication technologies to the field of advocacy.
In accordance with the amendments introduced to the Criminal Procedure Code, a suspect caught in the scene of crime has been granted with a right to privately meet the defense attorney before the procedural actions related to him start to be carried out. Besides this, any kind of explanatory letters or testimony from suspects, accused or defendant may be obtained only with the written permission of the investigator, prosecutor or judge and with the presence of the defense counsel (except in cases of refusal of the defense counsel).
It should be noted that in recent years fundamental reforms aimed at reducing the workload of judges and increasing their efficiency have been continued.
The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On amendments and additions to certain legal documents of the Republic of Uzbekistan in connection with creation of more favorable conditions for submitting claims to courts and the introduction of a simplified procedure for civil proceedings” was adopted. As a consequence, a separate and new chapter was introduced into the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In the case, if the value of a claim does not exceed twenty times of the amount of basic calculation - for legal entities, ten times – for individual entrepreneurs, and five times – for physical persons, then, such cases are considered according to a simplified procedure. Simplified procedure entails that the decision on the case is made without conducting a court hearing and listening to the parties` testimonies.
Article 33 of the UN Charter states that mediation is a method of resolving international disputes, and that parties involved in any dispute that may threaten the maintenance of peace and security shall initially resolve the dispute through negotiations, inquiries, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, or settlement. It should be noted that before referring the dispute between parties to courts, there was no mechanism during which the parties were explained about possibility of concluding a settlement agreement or resolving dispute in alternative ways.
When a dispute was resolved by courts, parties would bear excessive costs in the form of state duty and waste excessive time. In this regard, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On additions and amendments to the Code of Administrative Liability” became an important legal basis for democratization and liberalization of the judicial system of our state, protection of human rights, freedoms and legal interests.
According to this document, for the first time in our national legislation, a new procedure was introduced according to which a case on misconduct entailing administrative liability can be terminated in case if parties mutually reconcile the dispute. If we take a glance at the statistics, in 2018-2021, 2,489 of the lawsuits accepted for processing by the economic courts were left unheard due to the mediation agreement reached between the parties of those disputes.
The introduction of modern information technologies into the activities of courts is being carried out rapidly. Citizens have been provided with an opportunity to apply remotely to courts, participate in court hearings and obtain necessary information and data. In particular, the following interactive services have been launched in the court system:
- “Claim” (exsud.sud.uz) – a service to send claims to courts in electronic form, monitor the process of considering cases online and receive judgments in e-form;
- “Electronic payment system” (billing.sud.uz) – a single electronic payment system enabling calculation of the amount of state duty and court fees;
- “Collection of judgements” (public.sud.uz) – a database of court judgements;
- “Samples” (templates.sud.uz) – a database of samples of claims and applications for civil and economic proceedings;
- “Calculator” (calculate.sud.uz) – an electronic calculator to evaluate the state duty to be paid for civil and economic litigation;
- “Schedule of Meetings” (jadval.sud.uz) – an online database of cases assigned to courts of first, appeal and cassation instances;
- “Electronic reception” (qabul.sud.uz) – a system of online registration for personal meetings with the management of the Supreme Court.
- “Video conferencing” (vka.sud.uz) – a video conferencing system allowing participants to join court hearings online.
- a videoconference communication system was established between courts and penal institutions.
As a result of these reforms, confidence of citizens in the judicial system is increasing. This can be noticed in the growing number of appeals to courts as well as increasing number of acquittals and decisions in favor of physical and legal persons. Thus, a general population has began considering courts not as a punishing body, but as a tool to protect their interests and rights. In order to further strengthen such trust, it will be necessary for courts to act without deviating from the law, to protect the interests of citizens, to restore their violated rights, to follow this path steadily, and on this basis to win the trust of the people.
Religious tolerance and interfaith consent in Uzbekistan
With the declaration of independence and the commitment of the Government of Uzbekistan to the ideals of democracy, the choice of a secular path for the development of society gradually made it possible to create equal legal conditions for the existence of religions in general and religious groups in particular.
In the religious sphere, this large-scale work is carried out by the relevant state bodies and institutions of civil society and is aimed at providing citizens with the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of conscience; strengthening religious pluralism, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue in particular.
One of the significant results of the joint work is the adoption in December 2018 by the UN General Assembly of a special resolution “Enlightenment and Religious Tolerance”.
The adoption of the resolution was the practical implementation of the initiative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, put forward at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. The main goal of the proposed resolution is ’’ensuring universal access to education, the elimination of illiteracy and ignorance.”
It is noteworthy that the resolution was not only unanimously supported by all UN member states, but and adopted with the co-authorship of over 50 countries. This testifies to the high recognition by the international community of the relevance and timeliness of the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan.
The document is intended to "promote tolerance and mutual respect, ensure religious freedom, protect the rights of believers, and prevent their discrimination.”
The resolution emphasizes the important role of promoting peace, human rights, tolerance, and friendship. Also, it recognizes the importance of integration, mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding in the name of strengthening security and peace on the planet.
The document welcomes all international, regional, and national initiatives aimed at promoting interreligious, intercultural, and interfaith harmony and combating discrimination against individuals based on religion or belief.
At the same time, the adopted resolution calls on UN member states to implement appropriate communication strategies, such as large-scale advocacy in national and international media, as well as on the Internet, and disseminate educational information about tolerance, non-violence, and freedom of religion or belief.
The document also recognizes the key role of UNESCO in promoting peace and security in the world by expanding cooperation among nations through education, science, and culture.
Over the past five years, significant changes have taken place in Uzbekistan and large-scale reforms have been implemented in many areas, including in the religious and educational sphere.
A number of legislative acts aimed at further improvement of activities in the religious sphere have been adopted.
In order to study Islam in-depth and teach its scientific foundations, the International Islamic Academy of Uzbekistan was established. The academy specializes in teaching secular and religious knowledge, and training qualified personnel in the interpretation of the Koran, Islamic law, religious dogma, and hadith.
In Uzbekistan, peculiar mechanisms are involved in the revival of national and religious values, the study and promotion of the rich scientific and spiritual heritage of great ancestors, strengthening of religious tolerance in society - the activities of the Center for Islamic Civilization, international research centers named after Imam Bukhari, Imam Termizi and Imam Maturidi have been established.
As a result of large-scale reforms and transformations carried out in the religious sphere, the Higher Madrasah Mir Arab in Bukhara and the School of Hadith Studies began their activities in Samarkand.
In addition, the uWaqf’ Charitable Public Foundation was established under the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, among the tasks of which is financing the reconstruction ot mosques, holy places of pilgrimage and visiting, and other facilities, providing a material and technical base, and providing material support to workers in this area. The Foundation got the opportunity to dispose of funds received on 3 accounts: charitable, waqf, and zakat (ushr, fidya, fitr).
ln accordance with the adopted legislative acts, in order to further improve the activities of the Committee for Religious Affairs under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, a new composition of the Council for Religious Affairs, which is a public advisory' body under the Committee, was approved.
In addition, a department for work with women has been created in the structure of the Committee for Religious Affairs, and the position of a deputy chairman in charge of this area of work has also been introduced. A Republican propaganda group has been set up to coordinate spiritual and educational work among women.
At the same time, Uzbekistan attaches great importance to the preservation of religious and spiritual heritage, the enrichment of existing funds, the creation of the necessary conditions for local and foreign researchers to work with historical sources, and a comprehensive study of samples of historical and cultural heritage.
Today in the country, in order to ensure interethnic and interfaith harmony in society, a legislative framework has been created that provides for the observance of the rights and legitimate interests of citizens.
The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan establishes the norm on freedom of religion for everyone. Attention is also paid to the improvement and liberalization of national legislation in the field of religion. Simplified procedures for obtaining permission to produce, import, and distribute religious literature. The procedure for state registration of religious organizations has been further optimized.
At present, the new Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” has entered into force, which will contribute to the full provision of the constitutional rights of citizens of the country to freedom of conscience and religion.
Currently, only 2 335 religious organizations of 16 religious denominations operate in Uzbekistan. Of these, Muslim organizations 2142.
There are also 178 Christian organizations operating in Uzbekistan, 8 Jewish communities, 6 communities of the Baha'i Faith, one Hare Krishna society, and one Buddhist temple, as well as the interfaith Bible Society of Uzbekistan.
Recently, Uzbekistan has registered 96 religious organizations, of which 2 higher and one secondary specialized Islamic educational institution in Bukhara, Samarkand, and Termez, 74 mosques, and 19 churches.
At the same time, the national legislation of Uzbekistan does not provide for any restrictions on the number of religious organizations or the timing of their registration.
Religious organizations operating in the republic, along with other public organizations, actively participate in spiritual and educational work, make a significant contribution to improving the spirituality of society, the formation of strong beliefs among young people based on patriotism, as well as inter-confessional and inter-ethnic tolerance.
It should be noted that the religious policy in Uzbekistan is based on the principles of the secular nature of the state, religious tolerance, and equal treatment of all religions. Representatives of various nations and ethnic groups professing Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and other religions carry out their activities in the republic on equal terms.
All conditions have been created for the adherents of each confession, allowing them to freely practice their religion without any hindrance.
Believers freely pray in mosques, churches, and synagogues, observe tasting, and make pilgrimages as well. Religious organizations have the right to own territory, publish literature, train their religious ministers, and organize pilgrimages to sacred places.
The freedom of religion guaranteed by the national legislation of Uzbekistan has created all the necessary conditions for meeting the religious needs of all citizens - representatives of 138 national and ethnic groups.
Representatives of different faiths freely celebrate all religious holidays. Therefore, from year to year, Eid al-Adha and Ramadan Eid are celebrated on an increasingly large scale - among Muslims, Easter and Christmas - among Christians, Passover, Purim and Hanukkah - among Jews, Navruz - among Bahai, as well as festivities dedicated to Buddha and Krishna and other big events.
Believers make a pilgrimage to holy places: Muslims to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals, Christians to Russia, Greece, and Israel, and Jews to Israel.
During the years of independence, about 330 thousand Muslims made a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, including 130 thousand - Hajj and 200 thousand - Umrah, more than 2.5 thousand Christians and Jews visited religious shrines in Israel, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Georgia, and Greece.
In order to meet the spiritual needs of society, a large amount of religious literature of various kinds has been published annually. For full coverage of the religious life of Uzbekistan, a number of newspapers and magazines are published, including the newspapers “Islom Nuri”, ‘‘Слово жизни”, the magazines “Khidoyat”, “Восток свыше”.
Currently, a set of measures is being systematically implemented in Uzbekistan to protect the population from the negative impact of destructive ideas that reflect the radical extremist ideology and religious fanaticism.
An important step in this direction was the application of acts of pardon. In particular, since 2017, 19 decrees of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan have been adopted on pardoning persons who had committed crimes.
It should be noted that over the past five years, within the framework of the consistent policy pursued in Uzbekistan in the field of protecting the rights and freedom of citizens, special attention has been paid to measures aimed at protecting the rights, freedom, honor, and dignity of not only citizens living in the republic, but also our fellow citizens who find themselves in a difficult life situation in foreign countries.
Unfortunately, some Uzbek citizens, who fell under the influence of alien ideas and believed in false promises, joined the ranks of international terrorist organizations in different years and in zones of armed conflicts abroad. Spouses, fathers of some of the women returned as part of humanitarian operations, died during armed clashes.
Considering this circumstance, on behalf of the President of Uzbekistan, in 2019-2021, five “Mehr” humanitarian actions were successfully carried out, within which more than 500 citizens of the republic, mainly women and children, were returned to their homeland from the zones of armed conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
In order to further assist in their speedy reintegration and rehabilitation at the state level, a set of measures has been implemented to provide timely medical, psychological, material, and moral assistance. To date, all repatriates have been created the necessary conditions for their adaptation to peaceful life and integration into society and provided access to educational and other social programs, including the provision of housing and employment.
The Uzbek authorities are focusing on establishing a constructive dialogue and cooperation with international organizations and experts in the religious field.
During visits to Uzbekistan by the UN High Commissioner on human rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein (May 2017) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier (April 2018) discussed the current state of affairs, praised the reforms in our country, noted that Uzbekistan pays special attention to ensuring inter-ethnic harmony and religious tolerance, strengthening friendship between representatives of various nations and nationalities.
Following the visit to Uzbekistan of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Ahmed Shahid (October 2017), a separate document was adopted on the implementation of a set of measures in the field of religion.
The Special Rapporteur noted the progress made in simplifying the procedures for registering and carrying out the activities of religious organizations, as well as improving the system of religious education in the country.
The UN representative welcomed the interaction of the Uzbek authorities with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and stressed the interest in promoting reforms in the field of protecting religious freedom in the country.
One more piece of information. In December 2020, the US State Department excluded Uzbekistan from the so-called. “Special watch list” to ensure religious freedoms.
It should be noted that in 2018, given the significant improvement in the situation in the field of ensuring religious freedoms, Uzbekistan was excluded from the list of “countries of particular concern”. Since 2006, the Republic had been on this “black list” for 12 years.
The exclusion of Uzbekistan from the “special watch list” is a huge achievement and international recognition for our country.
In general, it is worth noting that an important distinguishing feature of the religious life of modem Uzbekistan is the inadmissibility of establishing advantages or restrictions for one religion in relation to other confessions.
One of the main priorities in reforming society in order to ensure interethnic harmony and religious tolerance is to ensure and protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, and their equality before the law, regardless of race, gender, nationality, language, social origin, beliefs, religion, personal and social status, which enshrined in the Constitution of Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan consistently and strictly fulfills its international obligations in the field of ensuring religious freedom within the framework of international human rights treaties.
It is known that current Uzbekistan has acceded to more than 70 major international human rights instruments. Accession to these documents contributed to the creation of an effective system for the protection of human rights in Uzbekistan.
It is important to mention that the policy pursued by Uzbekistan in the field of religion, aimed at strengthening interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance in society, is an important factor in stability and security.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the large-scale reforms being implemented in the country are a clear confirmation of the consistent continuation by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan of the implementation of the principle “Everything for the sake of man, for the sake of his future”.
Committee of Religious Affairs
On the path to the normative and institutional
development of the fight against corruption
The fight against corruption has also become a priority area of state policy m Uzbekistan. This can be seen in the conceptual regulatory' acts adopted m recent years in this area, on the example of administrative reforms aimed at preventing corruption.
The fact that the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the Law "On combating corruption" in the first days of taking office became the first important step in the formation of the state policy in combating corruption in Uzbekistan.
I. During the past 5 years, more than 80 normative legal documents aimed at putting an end to corruption in all spheres of state and society construction, including more than 10 normative legal documents regulating the field of combating corruption, were adopted.
The Decree of the President "On measures to create an environment of intolerant attitude against corruption, to reduce corruption factors in state and community management, and to expand public participation’' became another important conceptual document aimed at early prevention of corruption. The laws "On the openness of activities of the state pow'er and the state governing bodies" and "On public control", as well as the Resolution "On additional measures to ensure active participation of citizens in the budget process" made it possible to assess ever action of all categories of officials among the general public and the people.
The Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On additional measures to ensure the transparency of the activities of state bodies and organizations, as well as effective implementation of public control", was adopted as a logical continuation of the reforms implemented in the sphere. The Decree approved the list of information that every state body and organization should publicly announce.
The Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to introduce a system for rating the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts" serves to introduce openness to public administration, further strengthen systematic work in information openness for general use, transparency and quality of the information by international requirements. A system for rating the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts was introduced following this Resolution.
It should be noted that the recently adopted Decree of the President "On measures to increase the level of openness of the activities of state bodies and organizations and introduce the evaluation system’’ is starting a new era in the improvement of the openness policy in the country.
By the decree, the Anti-Corruption Agency will create an annual transparency index of state bodies and organizations and publicly announce it through the electronic platform "eanticor.uz" and media.
II. The activity of newly established Institutional structures in the system is also of great importance in the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts. In 2019. the Resolution of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan ’"On the establishment of the Committee on Combating Corruption, Judicial and Legal Issues"' was adopted. A Committee on Combating Corruption and Judicial Affairs was established in the Senate of the Oliy Majlis in the same year.
The Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan was established by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan of June 29, 2020 '"On additional measures on improvement of the anti-corruption in the Republic of Uzbekistan"'. The Republican Inter-Departmental Commission for Combating Corruption and its regional inter-departmental commissions were reorganized into the National Anti-Corruption Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan and its regional councils.
Among the key tasks entrusted in them are the implementation of a systemic parliamentary control over the execution of anti-corruption legislation and state programs, hearing reports from officials of government agencies engaged in anticorruption activities. The key tasks also include the development of measures for eliminating legal loopholes that allow and create conditions for corruption in the current legislation, studying the generally recognized principles and norms of international law in the field of combating corruption and, based on it, the development of proposals for further improvement of the current legislation.
Public Service Development Agency was established under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan by the Decree of the Head of the state "On measures to radically improve the personnel policy and civil service system in the Republic of Llzbekistan" and the Resolution “On measures to organize the activities of the State Public Service Development Agency under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan".
According to the Decree, it was determined that recruitment to public service shall be carried out based on open independent competition, fair evaluation of candidates in the activities related to recruitment to the civil service and career advancement of personnel, application of the principle of meritocracy aimed at choosing the most worthy among them.
Training of potential personnel in the fight against corruption has become one of the priority tasks of the Academy of the General Prosecutor's Office. In 2019, the Academy of the General Prosecutor's Office opened a special master"s course in "Combating Corruption". The Academy has established close cooperation with about 60 prestigious organizations in the world, and carries out training based on a completely new system, combining theory and practice.
The Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan of December 7, 2020 "On measures to ensure the genuine independence of judges and increase the effectiveness of preventing corruption in the judiciary” provided for the establishment of the Judicial Inspectorate for Ensuring Immunity of Judges and Preventing Corruption at the Judicial Inspectorate for Ensure Immunity of Judges, which contributes to the prevention and elimination of corruption in the most crucial areas, as well as the timely identification of corruption factors.
Decisions made by the National Anti-Corruption Council intensifies the process of conducting surveys among various segments of the population. In 2021, several more social surveys were conducted. In particular, UNICEF, together with Ureport, conducted a survey on the topic "Are young people involved in the fight against corruption? '. The survey involved 16.189 young people and 81 percent of them expressed their readiness to report on acts of corruption, while 39 percent do not consider bribery to be corruption.
In December 2021, the “Ijtimoiy Fikr” (Public Opinion) Center conducted a survey on the state policy in the field of combating corruption and the activities of the Anti-Corruption Agency. The results demonstrated that 82 percent of our population perceive corruption as an urgent problem, while 43 percent of respondents said that the fight against corruption m Uzbekistan is implementing quite successfully.
The Anti-Corruption Agency together with relevant agencies and departments conducted a study within the framework of the project “Creating the first anti- corruption laboratories in Uzbekistan to study corruption risks at the stage of enrolling children in schools”:
The survey covered 114 schools in Uzbekistan, involving parents of primary school students, primary school teachers and school directors. Following the results, a number of recommendations were developed. Those include the development of urgent measures to ensure transparency in school admission with the engagement of parents, the general public and specialists (psychologists, pediatricians, speech pathologists).
In addition, it was recommended to implement an Open Data electronic system to ensure maximum transparency of activities of the Ministry of Public Education, its structural divisions, and even the processes in each preschool institution (admission, educational process, assessment (examination), reporting).
Another example, the Anti-Corruption Agency conducted an anonymous survey- on the activities of law enforcement agencies in regions with a difficult crime situation from February 16 to April 6. 2021. The survey identified the presence of corruption risks in law enforcement agencies. The Agency developed proposals and recommendations to eliminate them. It is important that the analysis of this kind of sociological studies serves to improve the activities of the Agency and the anticorruption policy in general. Particular attention is paid to improving the legal awareness and legal culture of the population in combating corruption.
Thus, in December 2021, as part of the Anti-Corruption Week timed to the International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, about 500 events of various levels and formats were organized, including forums and conferences, competitions, promotions and flash mobs, round tables, trainings and talks shows with the active involvement of representatives of the general public, especially young people.
The Ministry of Public Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan in cooperation with the UNODC Office in Central Asia organized trainings on the topic 'Prevention of corruption in the public education system' and anti-corruption classes for schoolchildren. In 2020, anti-corruption classes were organized in schools in three districts of three regions, and in 2021 in the whole country'.
Open Data Challenge 2021 Hackathon included a special category - The Fight Against Corruption. The Ministry of Higher and Secondary' Specialized Education held the republican contests "The Best Anti-Corruption Textbook" and 'The Best Anti-Corruption Teaching and Methodological Manual’' among the academic staff of higher educational institutions. Moreover, in order to systematically inform the general public on the ongoing reforms in the field of combating corruption, Uzbekistan Anti-Corruption Digest online magazine has been created and published monthly in Uzbek, Russian and English.
For to actively involve and support NGOs in cultivating in society intolerant attitude towards corruption, as well as raising their awareness, 11 (25 percent) representatives of NGOs have been included in the composition of the National Anti- Corruption Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
In 2021. the "Openness and Transparency in Uzbekistan’' Analytical Center started operating. It is the first independent public organization studying corruption and transparency. The Center focuses on supporting the formation of an intolerant attitude towards corruption in society and the improvement of mechanisms for openness, transparency and accountability in government.
This year, the Anti-Corruption Agency with other government agencies in cooperation with UNDP announced a Joint Contest "Involving Civil Society Institutions in the Development and Implementation of Innovations in Preventing and Combating Corruption”. Similar projects aimed at increasing the social activity and legal culture of the population are important because they are an excellent incentive to be indifferent to such vices as fraud, bribery and extortion in society. In fact, the most effective and rational measure to effectively combat all forms of corruption is the intolerance.
Director of the Anti-corruption Agency
of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Minister of Employment and Labour Relations -
Chairman of the Subcommittee on Combating Forced Labour
“Eradication of forced labour - striking example of the political will”
In recent years, thanks to the strong political will of President Sh.M.Mirziyoyev, a completely new system of ensuring human rights and freedoms has been created in our country on the basis of large-scale reforms carried out to glorify human dignity and comprehensively protect their interests.
At the same time, the work on improving national legislation, bringing them into line with international standards, reforming agriculture and other sectors, the widespread application of market principles, mechanization of the industry, decent payment were key factors m prevention of child and forced labour in our country.
One of the achievements of Uzbekistan over the past five years is the complete abolition of forced labour.
If we look at the results of the International Labour Organization's Third Party Monitoring report (2019), it shows that since 2013 Uzbekistan has been achieving a gradual progress in eradication of forced labour. For instance, in 2015-2016 Cotton Campaign forced labour was 14 percent, from year to year this figure had gradually decreased to 4 percent in 2020 and reached to 1 percent in 2021.
Moreover, the government intensified law enforcement efforts in 2019. The number of staff of the Labour Inspectorate contributing to compliance during the harvest doubled from 200 to 400. Ike Labour Inspectorate investigated 1,282 forced labour cases during the 2019 cotton harvest.
Furthermore, ILO monitors confirmed that wages had increased compared to the previous harvest which was another effective mechanism to eradicate the issue. Generally, cotton pickers received their wages on time and in full.
There is no exaggeration to say that the abolition of the global boycott against Uzbek cotton by the International Coalition “Cotton Campaign” was a vivid example of the effectiveness of large-scale reforms.
Legal and institutional reforms against forced labour
Uzbekistan has ratified 19 conventions and 1 protocol of the International Labour Organization with the aim of complementing the norms of international law into our national legislation.
According to Convention No. 29 of the International Labour Organization, forced labour is any work or service which people are forced to do against their will, under threat of punishment. In 2014, Uzbekistan became the first country in Central Asia to ratify the Protocol №29 of the International Labour Organization on Forced Labour.
Need to note that the national legislature system of Uzbekistan fully complies with international standards. The article No. 7 of the Labour Code of Uzbekistan defines the forced labour as coercion to perform work under threat of any punishment.
In order to improve tins sphere, 32 nonnative-legal acts were adopted in 2019-2021. The Presidential decree "On additional measures to further improve the system of combating human trafficking and forced labour’ from July 30, 2019, has created a new system of coordination of stale bodies activities in the field of combating human trafficking and forced labour to increase the image of our country in the international arena.
The authority of Uzbekistan paid great attention to the institutional reforms as well. According to the decree, the National commission and the National rapporteur institute on combating human trafficking and forced labour were established. Also, subcommissions were established to fight against human trafficking and forced labour.
In order to eliminate forced labour, the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan introduced norms that strengthen administrative liability and criminal liability.
One of the most effective measures was the implementation of criminal responsibility for the use of child labour and forced labour. In order to reform agriculture by reducing state participation in the cotton sector, the system of mandatory- volumes of harvested cotton has been abolished.
Measures taken to combat forced labour
Monitoring of forced labour prevention is continued. In particular, for the first time since 2019, monitoring was conducted with full human rights defenders. In 2021, 17 independent observers were provided with badges to ensure unimpeded access to cotton fields.
At the same time, the international Labour Organization’s Third Party Monitoring, National Monitoring by the Federation of Trade Unions, Monitoring of the Labour Inspectorate were conducted simultaneously.
Parliamentary oversight by senators and local deputies involving journalists and bloggers was set Representatives of civil society institutions and human rights activists were also widely involved in the monitoring.
The Uzbekistan media reported actively on forced labour issues in 2019. Journalists and bloggers were encouraged by the Government to cover forced labour cases critically. The State Labour Inspectors have also started to investigate complaints about forced labour.
As a result of monitoring, administrative liability for forced labour was implemented against 259 people m 2019 (132 people during the cotton season), 103 people in 2020 (41 people during the cotton season), in 2021 year 75 people (5 people during the cotton season)
It should be noted that thanks to the strong political will of the president of the
Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as the extensive work carried out with the active participation of representatives of civil society together with the International Labour Organization and tripartite partners of the National Commission on Combating Forced Labour, such success have been achieved.
Touching upon the future plans, the International Labour Organization announced in Uzbekistan its final conclusion in 2021 that during the cotton harvest season, systematic child labour and forced labour were not used at all, as well as monitoring works m this direction were completely transferred to the Uzbek side.
Earlier, Uzbekistan’s achievements in ending forced labour were noted by the US State Department. As a result, the international community' highly appreciated the reforms carried out in this direction in our country.
While these results provide an opportunity to ensure human rights and develop the industry, particularly the cotton and textile industries, on the other hand, it lays a greater responsibility to maintain the achieved results which requires consistent continuation of systematic work in the field.
Now it is necessary not only to combat forced labour, but also to constantly monitor the creation of decent w orking conditions in all areas. In this regard, any incoming appeals and messages from social networks in the field ot labour relations will not be ignored.
On June 25, 2020, a Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (covers situation in 192 countries) was published. During the Trafficking in Persons Report l aunch Ceremony Mike Pompeo, the head of the State Department, highlighted in his speech the great efforts of Uzbekistan in solving this problem are setting a new standards for the countries of the region.
Despite the end of boycott, Uzbekistan remained in TIER 2 in the global reports such as “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons" (IS State Department) and "The Worst Forms of Child Labour" (US Department of Labour).
One of the main recommendations in these reports is to monitor the forced labour and decent working conditions in other sectors of this economy - silk production, construction, textile and catering
In this regard, it is important to improve the positions in the international community, to pay attention to expanding cooperation between Uzbekistan and the International Labour Organization.
In September 2021, in cooperation with International Labour Organization Uzbekistan Decent Work Country Programme for 2021-2025 was adopted
The main focus of the programme is paid on the principles of decent work, reduction of informal employment and issues of social protection in accordance with international standards.
It should be noted that in cooperation with the International Labour Organization, the analysis of working conditions in other sectors of the economy, as well as cases of forced labour are being studied.
According to a study conducted by the International Labour Organization in the field of silk in 2021, there are no cases of systematic involvement in forced labour in the silk industry, children are not involved in the cultivation of silkworms. Many consider the eating conditions in the workplace to be good or acceptable, and only 1 percent are known to be dissatisfied with the quality of the food. Three-quarters of the workers had employment contracts and were satisfied with the amount of wages.
Currently, these studies are being conducted in the field of construction. We are confident that the quality statistics obtained during the study on working conditions, including forced labour, will be a good source of information for thefurther development of effective policies in these sectors.
Advisor to the Director of the Supreme School of Judges under the Supreme Judicial Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan