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Uzbekistan supports the UN Call to Action for Human Rights. The importance of human rights is at the forefront of the continuous efforts to modernize the political, legal, and socio-economic aspects as outlined in the Uzbekistan 2030 Strategy. This Strategy aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and is committed to upholding the principle of “Leaving no one behind”, writes Mirzatillo Tillabaev.
Over recent years, under the guiding principle of “Upholding the Honour and Dignity of Man”, extensive efforts have been undertaken in the nation to implement the National Strategy for Human Rights. This includes the integration of international human rights and freedoms standards into national laws and the incorporation of these standards into the activities of government agencies. Uzbekistan has actively demonstrated its commitment to these ideals by actively participating in the United Nations Human Rights Council as a Member, fostering close collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as engaging with Special Rapporteurs addressing human rights matters. Spearheaded by Uzbekistan, the UN Human Rights Council adopted three Resolutions focusing on the rights of youth and children. Moreover, in conjunction with international partners, four international forums centered on youth rights have been organized.
In April, Uzbekistan conducted its first constitutional referendum, with a primary emphasis on protecting human rights, interests, and upholding human dignity. The revised Constitution delineates Uzbekistan’s core values as a sovereign, legal, secular, democratic, and social state.
The constitutional provisions relating to human rights have expanded significantly, now comprising over 50 articles, more than tripling their previous quantity. The Constitution reaffirms the nation’s dedication to fundamental principles such as human rights, freedom of speech and conscience, and the equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of their nationality, language, or religion. Moreover, Uzbekistan’s new Constitution incorporates well-established international legal doctrines, including the Miranda Rules, Habeas Corpus, and Pro bono, ensuring access to free legal aid.
Uzbekistan has formally prohibited the use of the death penalty in its new Constitution, as stated in Article 25, which explicitly declares “the death penalty shall be prohibited”. This aligns with the principles outlined in the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Uzbekistan actively supports the global and regional efforts to eliminate the death penalty, including its active engagement at the UN Human Rights Council.
The constitutional amendments are directly actionable norms, primarily focused on ensuring the protection and fulfillment of the specific rights and interests of citizens from diverse social backgrounds, encompassing personal, social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental aspects.
The new Constitution ensures the right to address both national and international human rights bodies. This is the first time in the OSCE region that the standing of national human rights institutions has been constitutionally recognised.
The constitutional complaints institution is embedded within the Constitution, meaning citizens have the right to approach the Constitutional Court. The Short-term Strategy for the elevation of the judicial system from 2023 to 2026 has been outlined, alongside an Action Plan. Plans include broadening the scope of the Habeas Corpus doctrine, introducing the role of an investigative judge, adopting the self-governance principle for judges, and amplifying the significance of the bodies of the judicial community.
Torture and other types of violence are prohibited at the constitutional level. Article 26 of the New Edition of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan establishes a prohibition of torture, violence, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The state uses institutional and legal mechanisms to strengthen guarantees of human rights in this regard. Additionally, the Nelson Mandela Rules have been incorporated into both legislation and practical implementation.
In accordance with recommendations from United Nations statutory bodies and treaty committees, a National Preventive Mechanism was established, following the “Ombudsman Plus” model. The roles of the Children’s Ombudsman, the National Centre for Human Rights, and the Business Ombudsman have been expanded to encompass oversight of penitentiary institutions. Furthermore, amendments to the Civil Code have been enacted to outline procedures for compensating victims of torture. This step aims to facilitate the provision of social, legal, psychological, and medical assistance to individuals who have suffered from torture.
The implementation of international human rights standards, especially the protection of the rights of women, children, youth and persons with disabilities, as well as the principles of social justice, have been given constitutional status. The Constitution of Uzbekistan in the new chapter “Family, children and youth” guarantees the protection of civil, political, economic rights of young people, as well as providing them with equal opportunities for development and self-realisation. Moreover, a separate article within the constitution guarantees that talented youth have the right to receive higher education funded by the state.
Since 2019, Uzbekistan has carried out five humanitarian missions under the “Mehr” (Benevolence) programme aimed at bringing back its citizens from areas affected by armed conflicts. These operations have resulted in the repatriation of 531 individuals, primarily consisting of women and children, who were located in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The government has implemented a range of extensive measures to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of these returnees into society. These measures include efforts to prevent social stigma, provide access to education, social programmes, employment opportunities, and enhance their living conditions.
In June 2023, the international community, gathered at the UN headquarters, had the opportunity to listen directly to the experiences of repatriated individuals who, after coming back to Uzbekistan, embarked on a new life. Uzbekistan’s approach to repatriating its compatriots, which is in alignment with international law and involves collaboration with global partners, can be considered an exemplary method for repatriation. This approach ensures the welfare of children and the seamless reintegration of women who have returned from conflict areas.
In support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Campaign to End Statelessness #IBelong, the Uzbekistan government has taken tangible actions to put this important initiative into practice. Since 2016, more than 80 thousand stateless persons have received Uzbek citizenship.
One of the most important priorities of the state policy of Uzbekistan is the development of a culture of tolerance and humanism, strengthening interethnic, interfaith and civil harmony in society. Article 19 of the Constitution guarantees equal rights and freedoms and equality before the law without distinction of race, nationality, language and religion, as well as other grounds.
The national legal system of Uzbekistan contains serious penalties for violating the equality of citizens. The law ensures that ethnic communities can freely use their languages, sustain and nurture their cultural heritage, customs, and practices. The Republic of Uzbekistan is actively executing its State Policy Concept concerning Interethnic Relations, marked by the establishment of events like the “Day of Friendship of Peoples” and the introduction of the “Friendship of Peoples” badge. Additionally, “Houses of Friendship” have been established, housing over 150 national cultural centers without charge.
In Uzbekistan, television and radio broadcasts are available in 12 different languages, while newspapers and magazines are printed in over 10 distinct languages. Approximately 20% of secondary schools in the nation offer education in seven languages, including Uzbek, Karakalpak, Russian, Tajik, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and Kazakh. General, vocational, secondary specialized and higher education is provided in the state language, as well as in other languages.
The country places significant importance on collaborating with business entities concerning human rights issues. Uzbekistan has established a Business Ombudsman, observes an Entrepreneurs’ Day, maintains an ongoing dialogue with business representatives, and is in the process of developing a draft Entrepreneurial Code. Furthermore, efforts are underway to implement the National Action Plan “Business and Human Rights”.
Uzbekistan continually upholds international standards of human rights in both its national laws and their enforcement. The country conducts evaluations on gender, human rights, and anti-corruption when examining legal regulations and their proposed drafts.
Country is currently putting into action the Concept for Enhancing Legal Decision-Making Processes. Specifically, they have modernized the procedure for developing and approving legal regulations by introducing digital methods. In the last five years, they have established a single electronic platform for developing and approving proposed legal regulations known as Project.gov.uz, a unified electronic platform for developing, coordinating, and recording decisions made by local government bodies called E-qaror, and an online platform for deliberating proposed legal regulations at regulation.gov.uz.
Uzbekistan acknowledges that human rights education is fundamental to promoting universal respect and widespread observance of human rights. The government actively participates in the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education.
The country is implementing the National Programme for Human Rights Education. Starting from the 2023/2024 academic year, educational and special courses “Human Rights”, “Women’s Rights”, “Child’s Rights” are being introduced in the system of vocational and higher education. Training courses are being opened on the rights of persons with disabilities, women, children and migrants. A series of manuals and brochures on human rights are published on an ongoing basis, and an Electronic Platform for Human Rights Education has been launched.
The upcoming fifth phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education will once more focus on the youth, broadening its reach to encompass children and emphasizing digital technology, climate change, and gender issues. All these topics were proposed during the Global Forum on Human Rights Education in December 2022 in Samarkand.
Uzbekistan has actively joined the international campaign commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As part of this effort, various events are being organized to widely celebrate this anniversary. In line with the national programme for the widespread celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, activities have been arranged to empower and raise awareness among young people about universal human rights. Additionally, these initiatives aim to engage the younger generation in comprehending the core values of freedom, equality, and justice.
In collaboration with the UN OHCHR, International Forum Youth Rights: Possibilities and Mechanisms of Protection took place, featuring the involvement of youth from Central Asian nations. During this event, a Central Asian Declaration was adopted. This Declaration will be presented at the High-Level Event within the framework of the “Human Rights 75” initiative in Geneva in December 2023.
The Author, Mirzatillo Tillabaev, is the First Deputy Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan