Human rights in Uzbekistan




The main principles and directions of Uzbekistan’s policy on human rights and freedoms


Independence and human rights

The Republic of Uzbekistan, having proclaimed its independence on August 31 1991 started to form the main state institutions on the principle of separation into legislative, executive and judicial powers. Aiming at successful development of socio-economic and political and legal relations it came across with the necessity to conform the national system of protection of human rights and freedoms in accordance with generally recognized principles and norms of international law. The following factors facilitated this:

Firstly, Uzbekistan has chosen its own way of renovation and progress in the field of home and foreign policy;

Secondly, the Republic of Uzbekistan became the member of universal international organizations among which the main is the UN and its specialized establishments, as well as the leading regional international organizations and active participation in their activity;

Thirdly, the Republic of Uzbekistan acceded to the main international documents on human rights, first of all, to six fundamental international treaties of the UN.

During the years of independence the fundamental principles of Uzbekistan’s policy in the sphere of protection of human rights were formed to which belong the following:

1. Adherence to the generally recognized principles of democracy and human rights, its international obligations;

2. Priority of the national interests in protection of human rights;

3. Development of international cooperation in the sphere of human rights taking into account the national interests;

4. Evolutionary and stage-by-stage implementation of democratic reforms.

Guided by these principles Uzbekistan commenced wide-scale application of international standards in the field of human rights, consciousness of citizens and public officials.

It is worth to state that the development of the system and mechanisms for protection of human rights was not conducted just to please a certain state or international organization. The main objective of independent Uzbekistan was strict abidance by its international obligations in the sphere of human rights and building a democratic legal state.


Legislation on human rights 

During the years of independence the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan passed 7 constitutional laws, 15 codes and more than 600 laws related to human rights. It is necessary to state the following among the basic legislative acts:

Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the laws “On Ombudsman”, “On Mass Media”, “On Guarantees and Free Access of Information”, “On Protection of Journalists’ Professional Activity”, “On Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations”, “On Additional Privileges to Women”, “On Political Parties”, “On Constitutional Court”, “On Appeals to the Court on Actions and Decisions Violating Human Rights and Freedoms”, “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”, “On Appeals of Citizens”, “On Guarantees of Rights of Child”, “On Counteraction Against Human Trafficking” and others.

At present there is a legislation of human rights which consists of the system of laws on personal, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Constitution and human rights. The core and basis of legislation on human rights is the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the peculiar juridical model on the basis of which states can judge the progress in the field of human rights and freedoms. It is not by coincidence that the foals and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights find their reflection in the constitutions and national laws of many countries of the world because of their commonness and universality. At the beginning of the 21st century it became the generally recognized norm of international ordinary law.

Attaching great importance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the Parliament of Uzbekistan, after proclamation of its state independence, ratified it as the first international treaty and by this secured the international catalogue of human rights and freedoms as a priority direction of its foreign and home policy.

The first Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted on December 8, 1992 is a legal guarantee for protection of rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen in our country.

The Republic of Uzbekistan as a sovereign, democratic, legal and secular state, committed to generally recognized international principles and norms on human rights, in the first place, constitutionally secured the priority of human rights and freedoms, more than a third of norms of its Constitution dedicated to human rights and freedoms and eliminated the priority of state interests previously dominating over the human rights.

More than 130 nationalities and nations live in Uzbekistan. It is very important for us that the Constitution guarantees the equality for everybody before the law and court, equality of rights and freedoms of a human and a citizen irrespective of sex, race, nationality, religion, political and religious convictions, property and official status, place of residence, membership in public associations, as well as other conditions and circumstances of personal or social character.

The Constitution of Uzbekistan also guaranteed the real rights to freedom of speech and sharing of thoughts, ideas and opinions, freedom of creativeness, publishing, transfer and dissemination of information. About 1000 mass media organizations are functioning in the country. There are independent newspapers and magazines, TV programmes and radio stations. Newspapers and magazines are issued in 12 languages: Uzbek, Russian, Karakalpak, Tadjik, Kazakh, English, Korean and others.

The right of citizens to education is guaranteed by the separate article of the Constitution. Along with free-of-charge education guaranteed by the state it is allowed to get education on a payment basis as to the choice of citizens. More than 52 higher educational institutions, and 11000 secondary schools are functioning in Uzbekistan. Aspiration to education and enlightenment is a characteristic feature for Uzbek people.

Private property guaranteed by Constitution is an essential fact. Previously it was rejected but now it is recognized and guaranteed in the Republic of Uzbekistan as an inalienable right of a person, being  natural source of his welfare, business and creative activity, guarantee of his economic and personal independence. Property is inviolable and no one can be deprived of private property and its confiscation, apart from the desire of owner, it is allowed only by sentence of court. The Constitution of Uzbekistan proclaimed the principally new and important norm on the recognition and equality of private property protection along with the state property, entitled everybody to a right to have property, posses, use and dispose it by his own discretion.

Confirming the right to freedom of labour, the Constitution prohibits any forced labour of citizens, the state entitles the right to freely choose profession. Creating favourable conditions for unemployed, their re-qualification, employment issues are undertaken by the state.

The modern legislative basis on women’s rights to participate in the policy puts them in one line with men. We have women in the Parliament, there are women-khokims (governors), deputy khokims, deputy ministers, more than 200 women’s non-governmental organizations are functioning in the country. Howerver, we have to do more in order to represent them in the Parliament, government and judicial system.

The state policy of Uzbekistan entirely rejects nationalism, racism, genocide, forced eviction or resettlement of people, violation of rights of other nations and assimilation policy.

Communal social self-organization being historically inherent to Uzbek people goes by its roots into traditional way of life. It is seen no only in the priorities of family interests and commitment to social character of population’s life activity but also leaves traces on all social structures of the society. Numerous forms of production and labour system also have the social feature. Makhalla as a national democratic institution is such a public institute.

Uzbekistan itself may be considered as a community in which prosperous and worthy life is impossible without respect and strict order, without strict performance of obligation and mutual care. That’s why choosing its own way of transition to market economy Uzbekistan to certain extent is connected with national-historical way of life, way of thinking, national traditions and customs of the local population.

Thus, at present constitutional and other necessary legislative basis for protection of human rights are created in Uzbekistan.


Implementation of international treaties on human rights into the national legislation

From the first years of independence Uzbekistan realized the fact that without participation of international organizations and acceding to the main international acts on human rights it is impossible to build a democratic legal state. At present Uzbekistan acceded to 70 main international documents in this field. They are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Geneva Conventions and additional covenants to them, Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Paris Chart for New Europe and many others.

The Republic of Uzbekistan, undertaking international obligations, timely reports about their fulfilment. Beginning from 1998 Uzbekistan regularly addresses reports to appropriate UN Committees. During the years of independence more than 30 national reports on fulfilment of the following Conventions and Covenants were prepared and sent:

1. On Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women” (initial report was considered in January 2001; second report was made in August 2006.);

2. On Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” (initial and second reports were considered in August 2000, and third-fifth in March 2006.);

3. Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (initial report was considered in 1999, second – in November 2001, third – in November 2007.);

4. On the Rights of the Child (initial report was considered in September 2001, second – in May 2006.);

5. On Civil and Political Rights (initial report was considered in March 2001, second – in March 2005.);

6. On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (initial report was considered in November 2005.).

It is worth to state that Uzbekistan is continuing to accede to the international conventions on human rights: in 2008 the Conventions of the International Labour Organizations No 138 “On Minimal age of Employment” and No 182 “On Prohibitions and Immediate Measures of Eradication the Worst Forms of Child Labour” and other international documents were ratified.


The national institutions on human rights

Parallel to the creation of the legislative basis in the Republic of Uzbekistan the huge work on institutional execution mechanisms for protection of human rights and freedoms were carried out. It is worth to state that the state was the main initiator in this process. In response to the challenges of the UN Second World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993) to establish in each country the national institutions on human rights the following democratic institutions were established in Uzbekistan:

1.         The Constitutional Court;

2.         The Authorized of the Oliy Majlis on Human Rights (Ombudsman);

3.         The National Human Rights Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan

4.         The Institute for Monitoring Acting Legislation under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan;

5.         The Committee on Democratic Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations and Self-Governing Bodies of Citizens of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan

The state conducts the efficient policy for separation of competence among different branches of powers. The particular differentiation by the spheres of specialization is characteristic for judicial system. Besides the Constitutional Court the General and Arbitrary Courts are set up in Uzbekistan.

Apart from the state system for protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms, great importance is given to the development of non-governmental organization on human rights in Uzbekistan. Among those we may highlight the following: “Ijtimoiy fikr” Centre for Studying Public Opinion, Association of Judges, Chamber of Advocates, Centre for Support Independent Candidates, Women’s Committee and others. In total more than 6100 non-governmental organizations are registered in the country.

Information-education activity in the sphere of human rights. In the framework of the UN decade in the field of human rights education, with the aim of widening the knowledge about them in Uzbekistan the national institutions and non-governmental organizations in close cooperation with the representative offices of different international organizations conducted the huge work on information-education activity. Annually not less than 100 seminars, trainings courses and lectures on actual problems in the field of human rights and fundamental standards in this sphere are conducted in Uzbekistan.

The training course “Human Rights” is introduced in all schools and higher educational institutions of Uzbekistan, including the Chair of UNESCO on human rights, peace, democracy, tolerance and international understanding at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy.

Besides this in the information-education sense state institutions carry out scientific-publishing work. All ministries and agencies of Uzbekistan dealing with human rights issues have their own publications on the pages of which this issue has a priority. In total human rights issues are covered by more than 20 specialized juridical newspapers and 5 journals. The leading publications are the journals “Democratization and Human Rights” and “Public Opinion. Human Rights” published by the National Human Rights Centre in Uzbek, Russian and English.

Posters, books, brochures on human rights are regularly published in Uzbekistan.

The main category of the population among which the work on human rights is carried out are women, children, believers, imprisoned and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO).

During the recent years special attention has been paid to women and children in conducting the social policy in the Republic of Uzbekistan. In particular, the year 1999 was announced as Year of Women in Uzbekistan. 2000- Year of Healthy Generation, 2001- Year of Mother and Child, 2002- Year of Protection Interests of Elder People, 2003-Year of Makhalla, 2004-Year of Goodness and Charity,  2005- Year of Health, 2006- the Year of Charity and Medical Workers, 2007- Year of Social Protection, 2008- Year of Youth, 2009- Year of Development and Accomplishment of Rural Area 2010- Year of Harmonically Developed Generation, 2011- Year of Small Business and Private Enterprise, 2012- Year of Family. During this period the state took the number of legislative measures directed to the protection of rights of women, maternity and childhood.

Besides that increasing the social actieness of women in the activity of non-governmental organizations is characteristic for Uzbekistan. More than half of registered NGOs in the country are women’s or headed by women.

Believers also hold a special place in the civil dialogue in Uzbekistan. State structures keep close contact with the representatives of diferent religious confessions, hold consultations about their registration and activity. The dialogue of different religious confessions is regularly organized.

Apart from believers, different categories of prisoners-adolescents, women, men – recentrly became another object of attention in the field of human rights. In collaboration with Non-Governmental charity Organization “Save the children” and United nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) a number of activities dedicated to education in the sphere of human rights in juvenile colonies were conducted.

NGOs are becoming more signigicant partners of the state in building the civil society year-by-year. Series of seminars and trainings allowed NGOs to strengthen their relation with state structures, gain skils in conductin human rights monitoring, compiilng and writing alternative reports and papers on the current situation.


Civil society institutions and human rights

The main peculiarity of the Soviet empire period was government ownership in all spheres of public life, takeover of the society by the state. But society is wider than state. State is child of society, product of social development.

The term “civil society” is used both in wide and narrow senses. In wider sense civil society includes everything not covered directly by state, part of society by its structures, i.e. all to which state’s “hands cannot reach”.

Civil society in narrow proper sense is closely conneted with legal state, they don’t exist one without other. Civil society represents diversity of unmediated by state interrelations of free and eqal in rights persons in the market conditions and democratic legal statehood.

Civil society is formed preferentially from scratch. It is based on the mentality of our nation to which the high spirituality, intelligence, thirst for enlightenment, education and justice is characteristic. We try to build civil society based on democracy which should harmoniously be combined with fundamental moral principles of our nation.

The Republic of Uzbekistan recognizes universal values and principles of democratic civil society: free expression of will, subordination of minority to majority, equal rihts of all citizens, equal rights to participate in society and state administration. We can mention the following derivative principles as well: appointment by election of the main bodies of state, their accountability before voters, accountability of state bodies, formed by the way of appointment, before electoral establishment and others.

All the listed principles are secured by the Constitution and laws of Uzbekistan but we have our own peculiarities in realization of these principles.

Firstly, generally recognized principles of formation and development of civil society are realized in our conditions successively and step-by-step. Resting upon the traditions, their skilful utilisation along with the approval of new steps will assist stability of the society in the epoch of democratic transformations.

Secondly, the important conditions for building civil society is the optimal conformity of people’s conscience to intensity of democratic transformations. The necessity of formation of democratic institutions should be realized by the society.

Thirdly, democratic institutions of civil society should reflect the mentality, peculiarities of traditions and culture of our people. Foration of new civil institutuions take place under the influence of such features of our nation as respect to law, priority of moral, spiritual beginnings in political relations.

We build the civil society. This means that, to the extent of formation of our statehood, diversity of functions of administration will be handed over to the people, to the self-governing bodies of citizens. We are trying to build not just a democratic civil society, but a fair democratic civil society. The Preident of the Republic of Uzbekistan I.A. Karimov stated truly that endeavour to the justice is characteristic feature for our nation’s mentality… The idea of justice should cover all the fields of public life.

Along with civil society the social legal state will be formed as well. The civil society and the legal state consolidate one fundamental feature — juridical and social protection of a person.

One of the conditions for functioning and interaction of a fair civil society and democratic legal state is NGOs. Formation of civil society is connected with the increase of NGOs role, their close interaction with state bodies.

The Constitution and the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan guarantee the opportunity to create public associations. Arlicle 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan is road as follows: “No one may infringe on the rights, freedoms and dignity of individuals constituting the minority opposition in political parties, public associations and mass movements, as well as in representative bodies of authority.”

As to generally accepted in the world community terminology these structures are called non-governmental organizations. They are independent from the government, their income, if they have, cannot be distributed among their members or heads. These organizations comprise the Independent (the Third) sector differing from the governmental (the First) and entrepreneurship (the Second) sectors. Along with this NGOs should observe the national legislation and conform to social and spiritual traditions, social culture.

NGOs in Uzbekistan are civil phenomena taking its form. These voluntary self-governing formations established on the initiative of citizens or legal entities differ by their diversity:

—        firstly, they act on the basis of broad democratic principles not limited by political, ethnic or confessional framework;

—        secondly, NGOs cannot become a mechanism stepping forward political or other powers;

—        thirdly, NGOs don’t aim at gaining pecuniary riches.

The President of Uzbekistan I. A. Karimov speaking about the strategic directions of stable democratic development, of the society on the basis of increasing care in respect to the protection and promotion of human rights repeatedly stated that the establishment of public and non-governmental structures should be call of time, need of the very life. And local and central bodies of the government should not only impede this process but, vice versa, fully assist, promote the formation of these new democratic and public structures so that more and more people could participate in social-political life, in the process of creation, building civil society, formation of those1 values which determine the essence of our life. And the number of those, who took the role of external observers and critics, will be lesser.

The main content of democratic institutions development is to attract as many people as possible to build our society, make them owners of their fortune, their future having equal rights.

Classification of NGOs in Uzbekistan includes the following groups.

The first group. Nation-wide structures which are specialized in serving social interests of certain groups or the category of population: Fund “Makhalla” (coordinator of the movement of communal-makhalla self-governing bodies of citizens); Women’s Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan (has the mechanism of interaction with governmental structures of all levels by attracting the heads of Committees into the local system of state administration); Association of Disabled of the Republic of Uzbekistan (covers more than 600,000 people); Social Youth Movement “Kamolot”; Fund of Veterans “Nuroniy”.

The second group. Specialized national funds.

The third group. Public institutions, firstly, non-governmental Ijtimoiy Fikr Centre for Studying Public Opinion; International Journalists Training Centre.

Thus, the  following organizations in  Uzbekistan belong  to NGOs:

1.         Public associations on social, creative, personal interests.

2.         Funds concentrating their financial means to support important

directions and projects.

3. Public institutions – infrastructures analyzing public opinion, social processes, non-governmental and non-profit social services.

Development of NGOs system allows to reveal the whole complex of diversified interests of different social groups of the population. The more developed is civil society, the more complicated is its social structure.


—        assist in formation of individual needs, personal interests;

—        satisfy these needs and interests;

—        self-governing in the sense of self-organization, participation of the public in state administration are carried out with their help;

—        they are “polygons” to carry out wide-scale experiments for state as well as commercial programmes; they are “forge of cadres” for business and policy;

— this is the error-free indicator of public interests. Realities of these days are such that one can see the following tendencies in the development of NGOs in Uzbekistan:

1.         Transition between semi-governmental organization (receiving organizational, material-technical and financial support from the state) and fully independent in organizational and material sense.

2.         Increasing the number of non-governmental organizations among women’s and youth ones.

3.         Aspiration to the development of partner relations in solving social problems in the bond: state — NGOs.

4.         Close cooperation with khokimiyats in realization and dissemination of social projects of NGOs.

5.         Legal perception of the functions of NGOs on social-cultural grounds.

6.         Amalgamation of NGOs in the form of associations and establishment of nation-wide fund for support NGOs’ develop¬ment.

In the conditions of building a fair civil society it is necessary to focus on enhancement of legal basis for participation of citizens in political process, in state administration. We are talking about, in the first place, the activeness of political parties, trade unions, public associations, youth and women’s organizations, different charity creative funds, unions.

Until the last moment the activity was regulated only by the Law “On Public Associations”, which played the significant role in the process of democratization of political life. However, as the time passed this law didn’t fully meet the requirements of the day and that’s why it was necessary to pass a number of laws in order to fill the recurring here gap. Today there is the whole system of laws determining the rights of public associations, funds, unions, their place and role in the political system of the society in Uzbekistan. These are the laws: “On Public Funds”, “On Non-Governmental  Non-Profit Organizations”,  “On Guarantees of Activity of Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations”,  “On Charity” and others.


International cooperation in the field of human rights

Information-enlightenment activity, scientific-publishing work in Uzbekistan are the corner-stones in cooperation between national institutions dealing with human rights and international organizations. It is necessary to mention the UN (UNDP), UNICEF, UNESCO, OSCE (ODILIR), K. Adenauer Foundation and F. Ebert Foundation, ICRC, embassies of democratic states and others 111oiIcj the  main partners assisting Uzbekistan in building democratic, legal state.

International cooperation in the sphere of information-enlightenment activity is based on conducting joint seminars, workshops and training courses for different layers of society. At l he same time the new directions were added to the traditional directions of cooperation (women, children) during the recent years. So, for instance, desire and will of political administration of Uzbekistan encouraged the establishment of the dialogue between stale structures and non-governmental organizations. Series of seminars and trainings on legislation, human rights monitoring and writing alternative reports and papers are the striking illustrations of this. Permanently acting seminar “The Constitution of Uzbekistan and inter-confessional dialogue” is an illustration of the dialogue established with the representatives of different religious confessions. During this forum the representatives of state bodies explain to religious figures their rights to freedom of religion, crossing, in such a way, all the “T’s”.

One of the important directions in the field of international cooperation has become the reforming the system of law-enforcement bodies. The training “On international standards in the field of human rights” is conducted for the staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Prosecutor’s Office, judges and lawyers in all regions of the republic.

Besides that the Republic of Uzbekistan is conducting cooperation with international organizations in the sphere of information-enlightenment activity for those who committed crime. In particular, training courses for the staff of reformatory organizations, imprisoned women and children are conducted in the places of detention. The Government of Uzbekistan provided ICRC with an opportunity to attend prisons.

Under the direct participation and financial support of international organizations such as the UN, UNICEF, OSCE, ICRC publication of books, textbooks, placards (posters), brochures on human rights has been organized in the country.

It is worth to state that life doesn’t stop, the need in creation of the efficient system of human rights and freedoms in Uzbekistan sets before the state and society more and more complicated and wide-scale tasks. New directions of state policy and forms of cooperation between the state bodies, non-governmental and international organizations are taking their forms.

Lately such forms of cooperation as conclusion of agreements between state bodies, state bodies and non-governmental organizations on coordination of the activity in the sphere of human rights appeared. Such type of agreements are concluded between Ombudsman and (.he Constitutional Court, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Health-care;, the Federation of Trade Unions, the Association of Judges, as well as the agreement of the National Human Rights Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Association of NGOs, the Centre for Studying Legal Issues and others.

It is necessary to make special emphasis on activeness of cooperation of the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan and national and foreign experts on preparation of drafts concerning human rights and freedoms.