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Anti-corruption policy in Uzbekistan, ongoing reforms and future objectives
The fight against corruption has become one of the most pressing problems facing the international community today. Its catastrophic impact on states, regional economy, politics, and public life can be seen on the example of the crisis in some countries, writes Akmal Burkhanov, director of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Another important aspect of the problem is that the level of corruption in a country directly affects its political and economic prestige in the international arena. This criterion becomes decisive in such issues as relations between countries, the volume of investments, the signing of bilateral agreements on equal terms. Therefore, in recent years, political parties in foreign countries have made the fight against corruption a top priority in the parliamentary and presidential elections. Concerns about this evil are increasingly voiced from the highest tribunes in the world. The fact that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres claims that the world community loses USD 2.6 trillion annually due to corruption shows the heart of the problem.
The fight against corruption has also become a priority area of state policy in Uzbekistan. This can be seen in the conceptual regulatory acts adopted in recent years in this area, on the example of administrative reforms aimed at preventing corruption. In particular, the National Action Strategy on Five Priority Development Areas 2017-2021, adopted at the initiative of the President, plays an important role in increasing the effectiveness of the fight against corruption.
Improving the organizational and legal mechanisms of combating corruption and increasing the effectiveness of anticorruption measures was identified as one of the important tasks in the priority area of the Action Strategy - ensuring the rule of law and further reforming the judicial and legal system.
On the basis of this policy document, a number of important measures have been taken to prevent corruption.
Firstly, the system for considering appeals of individuals and legal entities has been radically improved. The People’s Receptions of the President as well as hot lines and virtual receptions of each ministry and department have been launched. 209 people’s receptions offices have been created throughout the country, the priority task of which is to restore the rights of citizens. In addition, the practice of conducting on-site receptions of officials at all levels in remote areas has been established.
The people’s receptions provide the citizens with the opportunity to take an active part in the events taking place in the region where they live, as well as throughout the country. Ensuring the freedom of people to directly address with various issues and direct communication of officials with people led to a decrease of corruption in the lower and middle levels in itself .
Secondly, practical measures have been taken to ensure freedom of the media, journalists and bloggers, the openness of government structures to the public and the media, and the establishment of close communication and cooperation between senior officials and journalists in their daily activities. As a result, every action of the officials was made public. After all, if there is openness, it would be more difficult to engage in corruption.
Thirdly, the system of government services has been radically reformed and more than 150 types of government services are provided to the population using convenient, centralized and modem information and communication technologies.
In this process, the reduction of the human factor, the elimination of the direct contacts between the civil servant and the citizen, and the widespread use of information technologies, undoubtedly, significantly reduced the factors of corruption.
Fourthly, in recent years, the mechanisms for ensuring openness and transparency of government agencies, as well as public control institutions, have radically improved. The widespread use of digital and online technologies has increased the accountability of government agencies to the public. A system of online auctions of land plots and state assets, as well as state numbers for vehicles has been created and is constantly being improved.
Information on state procurement is posted on the website www.d.xarid.uz. The open data portal (data.gov.uz), the registered database of legal entities and commercial entities (my.gov.uz) and other platforms play an important role today in ensuring the principles of openness and transparency and public control, which are the most effective tools for combating and preventing corruption. Licensing and permitting procedures have also been radically improved to completely improve the business and investment climate, remove unnecessary bureaucratic barriers and outdated regulations.
Fifthly, a Resolution signed by the President in 2018 provides for the creation of a public council under each ministry and department. Of course, such councils are an important link in the establishment of effective public control over the activities of government agencies|4].
More than 70 regulatory acts aimed at combating corruption in all sectors of state and public construction have served as a solid basis for the implementation of these reforms.
The most important step in this area was the signing of the Law ‘On Combating Corruption’ as one of the first legislative acts after the President came to power. The law, adopted in 2017, defines several concepts, including “corruption”, “corruption offenses” and “conflict of interests”. The areas of state policy in the fight against corruption were also determined .
The State Anti-Corruption Program 2017-2018 was also adopted. The Law on Public Procurement, the Law on Public-Private Partnership, the Law on Dissemination and Access to Legal Information and the Law on Public Control, adopted under the Program, are also aimed at ensuring economic growth by combating corruption.
President Mirziyoyev, in his speech on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, proposed the creation of special anti-corruption committees in the chambers of the Oliy Majlis based on best foreign practices and the requirements of our Constitution.
In 2019, the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis adopted a resolution "On the establishment of Committee on Judicial-Legal Issues and Anti¬Corruption" of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan .
In the same year, the Senate of the Oliy Majlis also established the Committee on Judicial-Legal Issues and Anti-Corruption .
At the same time, the committees and commissions of the Jokargy Kenes of Karakalpakstan and the regional, district and city councils of people's deputies were reorganized into a "Permanent Commission on Combating Corruption".
Their main tasks were to conduct systematic parliamentary oversight of the implementation of anti-corruption legislation and government programmes, to listen to information from government officials involved in anti-corruption activities, to take measures to eliminate legal gaps in existing legislation that permit and create conditions for corruption, to study generally recognized principles and norms of international law on combating corruption and to develop proposals for further action.
A joint resolution of the Kengash of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis and the Kengash of the Senate “On measures to increase the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight of anti-corruption efforts” was adopted to coordinate the activities of committees and councils and identify priorities .
These chambers and kengashes serve to improve the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight of the fight against corruption.
In particular, the Senate of the Oliy Majlis and the responsible committee of the local council critically discussed information on the status and trends of corruption of public officials carrying out anti-corruption activities in the regions as part of parliamentary oversight.
The information of Minister of Higher and Secondary Specialised Education on the progress of the Corruption-Free Sector Project was listened.
The Prosecutor General also briefed on the work being done to prevent corruption in the health, education and construction sectors. The activities of the Ministries of Health, Education and Construction were critically discussed.
Regular dialogue was held in the regions with the judiciary, sector leaders and the public to discuss anti-corruption issues in cooperation with local Kengashes of people's deputies and to assess the responsibility of officials in this regard.
The Committee on Judicial-Legal Issues and Anti-Corruption of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis held hearings on the work of the State Customs Committee, the Ministry of Construction and the Ministry of Health in preventing corruption in its system.
The Committee made effective use of effective parliamentary oversight mechanisms during the period under consideration, and about 20 oversight and scrutiny activities were carried out by the Committee during that period. These included examining the implementation of legislation, listening to the heads of State and economic bodies and monitoring the implementation of the decisions of the Legislative Chamber and the Committee.
The responsible committee of the Legislative Chamber also works effectively with citizens and non-governmental organizations. In particular, since the Committee began its work, civil society institutions have submitted proposals for 22 relevant amendments and additions to the codes and 54 to legislation. These contain reasoned opinions on amendments and additions to the Criminal Code, the Labour Code, the Courts Act and other legislation.
In addition, during the past period, the committee has done work on timely study and resolution of citizens' appeals on systemic issues in the field. In particular, 565 appeals of individuals and legal entities submitted to the committee have been reviewed.
In 2018, committees for combating and eradicating corruption were created in the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis. These structures serve to enhance the effectiveness of parliamentary control over the fight against corruption.
The Civil Service Development Agency was launched in 2019. In order to increase the prestige of the civil service at all levels, eliminate corruption, red tape and bureaucracy, the Agency was instructed to take measures to provide financial incentives and adequate social protection for civil servants .
The State Anti-Corruption Program 2019-2020 was adopted to implement specific tasks, including further strengthening the independence of the judiciary, eliminating conditions for any undue influence on judges, increasing the accountability and transparency of government agencies and institutions .
The year 2020 occupies a special place in the history of our country in terms of improving the institutional framework for combating corruption, because, on June 29 of that year, two important documents were adopted. Those are the Decree of the President ‘On additional measures to improve the system of combating in the Republic of Uzbekistan’ and the Resolution of the President ‘On the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan’. These documents provided for the establishment of a new institution for the implementation of state policy aimed at preventing and combating corruption - the Anti-Corruption Agency .
The Agency is defined as a specially authorized government agency responsible for ensuring effective interaction between government bodies, the media, civil society institutions and other nongovernmental sectors, as well as for international cooperation in this area. The Decree also reorganized the Republican Interdepartmental Anti-Corruption Commission into the National Anti-Corruption Council.
In addition, as of January 1, 2021, 37 licenses and 10 permits were revoked. A Road Map was approved for the implementation of measures to strengthen the activities of ministries and departments to combat the shadow economy and corruption, as well as to improve tax and customs administration.
Along with these regulatory documents, ministries and departments adopted and implemented departmental documents aimed at increasing the effectiveness of combating and preventing corruption, “corruption-free sector” programs, as well as other plans and programs in various areas.
In 2020, under the chairmanship of the President, about a dozen meetings and sessions were held addressing the issues of combating corruption. All this means that our country is determined to fight this evil at the state level. This is perceived not only by the citizens of our country, but also by the international community as a serious political will.
In particular, the head of state delivered a speech at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of combating corruption, noting that this work in Uzbekistan has reached a new level, important laws have been adopted and an independent anti-corruption structure has been created. The Uzbek President showed the whole world how important this road is for our country. Positive transformations, along with ensuring the social and economic growth of our country, serve to increase in international ratings and indices and improve the image of our republic.
In the 2020 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Uzbekistan climbed 7 positions compared to 2019 and achieved stable growth for 4 consecutive years (from 17 points in 2013 to 26 points in 2020). Therefore, in its 2020 report, the Transparency International recognized Uzbekistan as one of the fastest growing countries in the region.
However, despite the results achieved, we still have a formidable challenge ahead of us. In his Address to the Oliy Majlis, the President also touched upon the problem of corruption, stressing that intolerance to any form of it should become a part of our daily life.
A number of tasks set in the Address to combat corruption are also reflected in the State Program “Year of Supporting Youth and Strengthening Public Health”. In particular, the Anti-Corruption Agency was tasked with further improving the mechanisms for ensuring openness and transparency in government agencies.
According to study and analysis carried out by the Agency, today the Open Data Portal contains more than 10 thousand collections of open data from 147 ministries and departments. Based on the results of the study and analysis, a list of 240 proposals for expanding open data submitted by 39 ministries, departments and institutions were selected and compiled. The State Program also includes the development of the E-Anticorruption project, which will take anti-corruption reforms to a new level. The project will conduct an in-depth analysis of the existing factors of corruption in all ministries and departments in the context of sectors and regions.
This process will involve representatives of civil society institutions, international experts and interested organizations. As a result, for the first time in our country, an electronic register of corruption-prone relations will be formed . This, in turn, makes it possible to gradually eliminate existing relations with signs of corruption with the help of open and transparent mechanisms using modem information technologies.
The State Program also focuses on another important task. In particular, it is planned to develop the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2021-2025 in order to continue work in this direction on a systematic and comprehensive basis. In developing this strategy, special attention is paid to a holistic plan that fully covers the real situation. The experience of countries that have achieved successful results in the development and implementation of a comprehensive political document for five years is being studied. It is noteworthy that many countries achieve significant positive results in the fight against corruption through the adoption of such a strategic package of documents and the systematic implementation of its tasks.
The experience of countries such as Georgia, Estonia, and Greece shows that a comprehensive long-term program has led to an increase in the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and its prevention, as well as to an increase of their positions in international rankings. In our country, the development and implementation of a long-term, systematic, comprehensive program to combat corruption will serve to increase the effectiveness of reforms in this area in the future.
Today, the Anti-Corruption Agency is actively working on the draft National Strategy. The document includes an analysis of the current situation, positive trends, and problems, main factors causing corruption, goals and its indicators. In order to cover all issues and take into account the opinion of the government and society, it is widely discussed at national and international consultation meetings with the participation of representatives of government agencies, officials, members of NGOs, academia, and international experts.
It is planned that the draft Strategy will be submitted for public discussion in order to learn the opinion of our people.
The Agency has also studied this year the facts of corruption and conflicts of interest in the field of state procurement in regions. Reasonable proposals have been prepared for the public disclosure of information on the shortcomings identified during the study, as well as information on the composition of tender commissions for state procurement and investment projects, commissions for issuing permits, participants in the process of buying and selling state assets and public-private partnership projects, as well as on recipients’ tax and other benefits. Work is currently underway to further improve these proposals.
It should be noted that the fight against corruption is not a task that can be solved within one organization. It is necessary to mobilize all government agencies, public organizations, the media and, in general, every citizen to fight this evil. Only then will we get to the root of the problem.
Of course, it is gratifying to see the positive results of the work done over the past three-four years. That is, today it is clear from the views of our people that corruption has become one of the most used words in social networks, in our daily life. This indicates that the population, which plays an important role in the fight against corruption, is becoming increasingly intolerant of this evil.
Since the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency, many ministries and government departments, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations and citizens have expressed their readiness to provide free assistance, and cooperation is gaining momentum now.
The main thing is to strengthen the spirit of intolerance towards corruption in our modem society, the fighting spirit of anti-corruption in journalists and bloggers, and so that government agencies and officials look at corruption as a threat to the future of the country. Today, everyone is against corruption, from senior officials to the majority of the population, the clerisy, the media have understood that it needs to be eradicated, and the country cannot develop along with it. Now the only task is to unite all efforts and fight against evil together.
This will undoubtedly serve to fully implement the development strategies of our country for the years to come.
1. “The costs of corruption: values, economic development under assault, trillions lost, says Guterres” UN official site. 09.12.2018.
2. Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the strategy of further development of the Republic of Uzbekistan”. 07.02.2017. #PD-4947.
3. Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to further improve the system of dealing with the problems of the population”. #PR-5633.
4. Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On additional measures for the accelerated development of the national system of public services” 31.01.2020. #PD-5930.
5. Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On additional measures to improve the anti-corruption system in the Republic of Uzbekistan” 29.06.2020. #PR-6013.
6. Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to implement the provisions of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Combating Corruption" 02.02.2017. #PD-2752.
7. Resolution of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the establishment of the Committee on Combating Corruption and Judicial Issues”. 14.03.2019. #PD-2412-III.
8. Resolution of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the establishment of the Committee on Combating Corruption and Judicial Issues”. 25.02.2019. #JR-513-III.
9. Joint Resolution of the Council of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Council of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to increase the effectiveness of parliamentary control in the fight against corruption”. 30.09.2019. #782-111/ JR-610-III.
10. Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to radically improve the personnel policy and the system of civil service in the Republic of Uzbekistan”. 03.10.2019. PD-5843.
11. Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to further improve the anti-corruption system in the Republic of Uzbekistan” 27.05.2019. #PD-5729.
12. Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the organization of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Uzbekistan”. 29.06.2020. #PR-4761.
13. Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to implement “the strategy of further development of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021” for the Year of Youth Support and Public Health”. 03.02.2021 #PR-6155.
Uzbekistan is adapting counterterrorism strategy to modern threats
Head of the Department of the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies (ISRS) under the President of Uzbekistan Timur Akhmedov says that the Uzbek Government follows the principle: it is important to combat the reasons that cause citizens to become susceptible to terrorist ideologies.
According to the expert, the problem of countering terrorism does not lose its relevance during a pandemic. On the contrary, the epidemiological crisis of unprecedented scale that gripped the whole world and affected all spheres of public life and economic activity revealed a number of problems that create fertile ground for the spread of ideas of violent extremism and terrorism.
The growth of poverty and unemployment is observed, the number of migrants and forced migrants is increasing. All these crisis phenomena in the economy and social life can increase inequality, create risks of exacerbation of conflicts of a social, ethnic, religious and other nature.
Independent Uzbekistan has its own history of fighting terrorism, where the spread of radical ideas after gaining independence was associated with a difficult socio-economic situation, the emergence of additional hotbeds of instability in the region, attempts to legitimize and consolidate power through religion.
At the same time, the formation of radical groups in Central Asia was largely facilitated by the mass atheist policy pursued in the USSR, accompanied by repressions against believers and pressure on them.
The subsequent weakening of the ideological positions of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and the liberalization of socio-political processes contributed to the active penetration of ideology into Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries through foreign emissaries of various international extremist centers. This stimulated the spread of a phenomenon atypical for Uzbekistan - religious extremism aimed at undermining interfaith and interethnic harmony in the country.
Nevertheless, at an early stage of independence, Uzbekistan, being a multinational and multi-confessional country where more than 130 ethnic groups live and there are 16 confessions, chose the unambiguous path of building a democratic state based on the principles of secularism.
In the face of growing terrorist threats, Uzbekistan has developed its own strategy with a priority on security and stable development. At the first stage of the development of measures, the main stake was made on the formation of a system of administrative and criminal response to various manifestations of terrorism, incl. strengthening the regulatory framework, improving the system of law enforcement agencies, promoting the effective administration of judicial justice in the field of countering terrorism and its financing. The activities of all parties and movements calling for an anti-constitutional change in the state system were terminated. After that, most of these parties and movements went underground.
The country faced acts of international terrorism in 1999, the peak of terrorist activity was in 2004. Thus, on March 28 - April 1, 2004, terrorist acts were carried out in the city of Tashkent, Bukhara and Tashkent regions. On July 30, 2004, repeated terrorist attacks were carried out in Tashkent at the embassies of the United States and Israel, as well as at the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Bystanders and law enforcement officers became their victims.
In addition, several Uzbeks joined terrorist groups in neighboring Afghanistan, which later attempted to invade the territory of Uzbekistan in order to destabilize the situation.
An alarming situation required an immediate response. Uzbekistan put forward the main initiatives of collective regional security and carried out large-scale work to form a system for ensuring stability in society, the state and the region as a whole. In 2000, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Combating Terrorism" was adopted.
As a result of the active foreign policy of Uzbekistan, a number of bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreements were concluded with states interested in the joint fight against terrorism and other destructive activities. In particular, in 2000, an agreement was signed in Tashkent between Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan "On joint actions to combat terrorism, political and religious extremism, and transnational organized crime."
Uzbekistan, facing the "ugly face" of terrorism with its own eyes, strongly condemned the terrorist acts committed on September 11, 2001 in the United States. Tashkent was one of the first to accept Washington’s proposal for a joint fight against terrorism and supported their counter-terrorism actions, providing states and international organizations wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan with the opportunity to use their land, air and waterways.
CONCEPTUAL REVISION OF APPROACHES
The transformation of international terrorism into a complex socio-political phenomenon requires a constant search for ways to develop effective response measures.
Despite the fact that not a single terrorist act has been carried out in Uzbekistan over the past 10 years, the participation of citizens of the country in hostilities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the involvement of immigrants from Uzbekistan in committing terrorist acts in the United States, Sweden, and Turkey necessitated a revision of the approach to the problem of deradicalization of the population and increasing the effectiveness of preventive measures.
In this regard, in the renewed Uzbekistan, the emphasis has shifted in favor of identifying and eliminating conditions and causes conducive to the spread of terrorism. These measures are clearly reflected in the Action Strategy for the five priority areas of the country’s development in 2017-2021, approved by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan on February 7, 2017.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev outlined the creation of a belt of stability and good-neighborliness around Uzbekistan, the protection of human rights and freedoms, the strengthening of religious tolerance and interethnic harmony as priority areas for ensuring the country’s security. The initiatives being implemented in these areas are based on the principles of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
The conceptual revision of approaches to preventing and countering extremism and terrorism includes the following key points.
First, the adoption of such important documents as the Defense Doctrine, the laws "On Countering Extremism", "On Internal Affairs Bodies", "On the State Security Service", "On the National Guard", made it possible to strengthen the legal basis for prevention in the fight against terrorism.
Second, respect for human rights and the rule of law are integral components of the fight against terrorism in Uzbekistan. The government’s counter-terrorism measures are consistent with both national law and the State’s obligations under international law.
It is important to note that the state policy of Uzbekistan in the field of combating terrorism and protecting human rights is aimed at creating conditions under which these areas do not conflict with each other, but, on the contrary, would complement and reinforce each other. This entails the need to develop principles, norms and obligations defining the boundaries of permissible legal actions of the authorities aimed at combating terrorism.
The National Strategy on Human Rights, adopted for the first time in the history of Uzbekistan in 2020, also reflected the government’s policy towards persons guilty of committing terrorist crimes, including issues of their rehabilitation. These measures are based on the principles of humanism, justice, independence of the judiciary, competitiveness of the judicial process, expansion of the Habeas Corpus institution, and strengthening of judicial supervision over the investigation. Public confidence in justice is achieved through the implementation of these principles.
The results of the implementation of the Strategy are also manifested in more humane decisions of the courts when imposing punishments on persons who have fallen under the influence of radical ideas. If until 2016 in criminal cases related to the participation of terrorist activities, judges appointed long terms of imprisonment (from 5 to 15 years), today the courts are limited to either suspended sentences or imprisonment of up to 5 years. Also, the defendants in criminal cases who participated in illegal religious-extremist organizations are released from the courtroom under the guarantee of citizens’ self-government bodies (“mahalla”), the Youth Union and other public organizations.
At the same time, the authorities are taking measures to ensure transparency in the process of investigating criminal cases with an “extremist connotation”. The press services of law enforcement agencies work closely with the media and bloggers. At the same time, special attention is paid to excluding from the lists of accused and suspects those persons in respect of whom compromising materials are limited only by the applicant base without the necessary evidence.
Thirdly, systematic work is underway for social rehabilitation, the return to normal life of those who fell under the influence of extremist ideas and realized their mistakes.
Measures are being taken to decriminalize and de-radicalize people accused of crimes related to violent extremism and terrorism. So, in June 2017, at the initiative of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the so-called "black lists" were revised in order to exclude from them persons who were firmly on the path of correction. Since 2017, more than 20 thousand people have been excluded from such lists.
A special commission is operating in Uzbekistan to investigate the cases of citizens who have visited the war zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the new order, individuals who did not commit serious crimes and did not participate in hostilities can be exempted from prosecution.
These measures made it possible to implement the Mehr humanitarian action to repatriate the citizens of Uzbekistan from the zones of armed conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Since 2017, more than 500 citizens of Uzbekistan, mainly women and children, have returned to the country. All conditions have been created for their integration into society: access to educational, medical and social programs has been provided, including through the provision of housing and employment.
Another important step in the rehabilitation of persons involved in religious extremist movements was the practice of applying acts of pardon. Since 2017, this measure has been applied to over 4 thousand persons serving sentences for crimes of an extremist nature. The act of pardon acts as an important incentive for the correction of persons who have violated the law, giving them a chance to return to society, family and become active participants in the reforms being carried out in the country.
Fourth, measures are being taken to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. For example, in recent years, youth and gender policies have been strengthened, and initiatives in education, sustainable development, social justice, including poverty reduction and social inclusion, have been implemented to reduce vulnerability to violent extremism and terrorist recruitment.
In September 2019, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On guarantees of equal rights and opportunities for women and men" (On gender equality) was adopted. At the same time, within the framework of the law, new mechanisms are being formed aimed at strengthening the social status of women in society and protecting their rights and interests.
Taking into account the fact that 60% of the population of Uzbekistan is young people, considered as a “strategic resource of the state”, in 2016 the Law “On State Youth Policy” was adopted. In accordance with the law, conditions are created for the self-realization of young people, for them to receive a quality education and to protect their rights. The Agency for Youth Affairs is actively operating in Uzbekistan, which, in cooperation with other public organizations, is systematically working to provide support to children whose parents have come under the influence of religious extremist movements. In 2017 alone, about 10 thousand young people from such families were employed.
As a result of the implementation of the youth policy, the number of registered terrorist crimes in Uzbekistan among persons under the age of 30 has significantly decreased in 2020 compared to 2017, more than 2 times decreased.
Fifth, taking into account the revision of the paradigm of the fight against terrorism, the mechanisms for training specialized personnel are being improved. All law enforcement agencies involved in the fight against terrorism have specialized academies and institutions.
At the same time, special attention is paid not only to the training of law enforcement officers, but also theologians and theologians. For this purpose, the International Islamic Academy, the international research centers of Imam Bukhari, Imam Termiziy, Imam Matrudi, and the Center for Islamic Civilization have been established.
In addition, the scientific schools "Fikh", "Kalom", "Hadith", "Akida" and "Tasawwuf" have started their activity in the regions of Uzbekistan, where they train specialists in some sections of Islamic studies. These scientific and educational institutions serve as the basis for the training of highly educated theologians and experts in Islamic studies.
International cooperation is at the core of Uzbekistan’s counterterrorism strategy. The Republic of Uzbekistan is a party to all 13 existing UN conventions and protocols on combating terrorism. It should be noted that the country was among the first to support the fight against international terrorism, including the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
In 2011, the countries of the region adopted a Joint Action Plan for the Implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Central Asia was the first region where a comprehensive and comprehensive implementation of this document was launched.
This year marks ten years since the adoption of the Joint Action in the region to implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. In this regard, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, during his speech at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, announced an initiative to hold an international conference in Tashkent in 2021 dedicated to this significant date.
The holding of this conference will make it possible to sum up the results of the work over the past period, as well as to determine new priorities and areas of interaction, to give a new impetus to regional cooperation in the fight against the threats of extremism and terrorism.
At the same time, a mechanism has been established for the UN Counter-Terrorism Office and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to conduct step-by-step training courses on combating terrorism, violent extremism, organized crime and the financing of terrorism for law enforcement officials of the country.
Uzbekistan is an active member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which also aims to jointly ensure and maintain peace, security and stability in the region. In this context, it should be noted that the establishment of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO with the location of its headquarters in Tashkent became a kind of recognition of the leading role of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the fight against terrorism. Every year, with the assistance and coordinating role of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS, joint anti-terrorist exercises are held on the territory of the Parties, in which representatives of Uzbekistan take an active part.
Similar work is being carried out by the Anti-Terrorist Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States (ATC CIS). Within the framework of the CIS, the "Program of cooperation of the CIS member states in the fight against terrorism and other violent manifestations of extremism for 2020-2022" was adopted. The success of this practice is demonstrated by the fact that the law enforcement agencies of the Commonwealth countries only in 2020 jointly liquidated 22 cells of international terrorist organizations that were recruiting people for training in the ranks of militants abroad.
In countering terrorism, the Republic of Uzbekistan pays special attention to partnership with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is supported by two-year programs for joint cooperation in the politico-military dimension. So, within the framework of cooperation for 2021-2022, the key goals are countering terrorism, ensuring information / cyber security and assistance in combating the financing of terrorism.
At the same time, in order to improve the qualifications of law enforcement officials, cooperation has been established with the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism (EAG), the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), and the Egmont Group. With the participation of experts from specialized international organizations, as well as according to their recommendations, a National Assessment of the risks of legalization of proceeds from criminal activity and financing of terrorism in the Republic of Uzbekistan has been developed.
Cooperation is actively developing and strengthening not only through international organizations, but also at the level of the Security Councils of the Central Asian states. All countries of the region are implementing programs of bilateral cooperation in the field of security, which include a set of measures aimed at countering terrorism. Moreover, in order to promptly respond to threats of terrorism with the participation of all states of the region, coordinating working groups have been established through law enforcement agencies.
It should be noted that the principles of such cooperation are as follows:
First, it is possible to effectively counter modern threats only by strengthening the collective mechanisms of international cooperation, by adopting consistent measures that exclude the possibility of applying double standards;
Second, priority should be given to combating the causes of threats, not their consequences. It is important for the international community to step up its contribution to the fight against radical and extremist centers that cultivate the ideology of hatred and create a conveyor belt for the formation of future terrorists;
Third, the response to the growing threat of terrorism must be all-encompassing, and the UN must play the role of a key world coordinator in this direction.
The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan in his speeches from the tribunes of international organizations - UN, SCO, CIS and others - repeatedly stressed the need to strengthen cooperation in the fight against this phenomenon on a global scale.
Only at the end of 2020, initiatives were expressed on:
- organizing an international conference dedicated to 10th anniversary of the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia;
- implementation of the Cooperation Program in the field of deradicalization within the framework of the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center;
- adaptation of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure to the solution of fundamentally new tasks to ensure security in the Organization’s space.
INSTEAD OF AN AFTERWORD
Taking into account the changes in the forms, objects and goals of terrorism, the Republic of Uzbekistan is adapting its strategy of combating terrorism to modern challenges and threats, relying on the struggle for the minds of people, primarily young people, by increasing legal culture, spiritual and religious enlightenment and protection of rights person.
The Government is based on the principle: it is important to fight the reasons that make citizens susceptible to terrorist ideologies.
With its counterterrorism policy, the state is trying to develop in citizens, on the one hand, immunity against a radical understanding of Islam, foster tolerance, and on the other hand, the instinct of self-preservation against recruitment.
Collective mechanisms of international cooperation are being strengthened, and special attention is being paid to the exchange of experience in the field of terrorism prevention.
And despite the rejection of tough forceful measures, Uzbekistan is among the safest countries in the world. In the new "Global Terrorism Index" for November 2020, among 164 states, Uzbekistan ranked 134th and again entered the category of countries with an insignificant level of terrorist threat”.
Uzbekistan's Development of National Preventive Mechanism against Torture
As part of the implementation of Uzbekistan’s Action Strategy, which marked the beginning of a new stage of democratic transformations and modernisation of the country, international human rights standards are being actively implemented. The outcomes of which are recognized by international experts, writes Doniyor Turaev, deputy director of the Legislation and Parliamentary Research Institute under the Oliy Majlis.
As early as in 2017, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who visited the country as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that, ‘The volume of constructive human-rights related proposals, plans and new legislation that has emerged since President Mirziyoyev took up office is remarkable.’ ‘Human rights – all categories of human rights – figure very prominently across the five sets of priorities laid out in the over-arching policy document guiding these proposed reforms – the President’s 2017-21 Action Strategy. Anyone wishing to understand what underlies the changes starting to take place in Uzbekistan – and what lies behind my visit – should look closely at the Action Strategy.’
Today, Uzbekistan is a party to the ten core international UN human rights instruments, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter – the Convention against Torture), and consistently taking measures to implement provisions thereof into national legislation.
Taking into consideration the fact that progress in the sphere of human rights, and in particular, in the prevention of torture, is one of the indicators that demonstrate the level of maturity of democracy in the country, the issues of compliance of the relevant national legislation with international standards are of prime importance in the course of ongoing reforms for Uzbekistan, which is building a law-governed democratic state.
Based on the obligation to take effective measures to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment arising from the Convention against Torture, Uzbekistan, along with the adoption of a set of measures in this area, is making appropriate changes to the legislation.
In view of this, let us consider the latest, core, in our opinion, changes in the national legislation relating to the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Firstly, amendments have been made to article 235 of the Criminal Code, aimed at enhancing liability for the use of torture, expanding the range of possible victims and those who shall be held liable.
It should be noted that the previous version of article 235 of the Criminal Code
restricted the prohibited practice of torture to the actions of law enforcement officials and did not cover acts by ‘other persons acting in an official capacity’, including those ‘acts that result from the instigation, consent or acquiescence of a public official’. In other words, the earlier version of the article 235 of the Criminal Code did not contain all the elements of article 1 of the Convention against Torture, to which the UN Committee against Torture has repeatedly drawn its attention. Now, the new version of this article of the Criminal Code provides for the above elements of the Convention.
Secondly, articles 9, 84, 87, 97, 105, 106 of the Criminal Executive Code have been amended and supplemented with norms aimed at better safeguarding the rights of convicts, including securing their rights to exercise, psychological counseling, safe working conditions, rest, leave, labour remuneration, access to health care, vocational training, etc.
Thirdly, the Administrative Liability Code has been supplemented by new Article 1974, which provides for administrative responsibility for obstructing the legal activities of Parliamentary Ombudsman (the Commissioner of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights).
In particular, the article provides for liability for the officials’ failure to perform their duties to the Commissioner, creating obstacles to his/her work, providing him/her with deliberately false information, the officials’ failure to consider appeals, petitions or their failure to meet the time limits for consideration thereof without a good reason.
Fourthly, important amendments have been made to the Law ‘On the Commissioner of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Human Rights (Ombudsman)’ (hereinafter - the Law), according to which:
– correctional facilities, places of detention and special reception centres are covered by the one concept of ‘places of detention’;
– a sector to facilitate the Commissioner’s activities on the prevention of torture and ill-treatment is created within the structure of the Commissioner’s Secretariat;
– the powers of the Commissioner in this area are prescribed in detail. In particular, the Law has been supplemented by new article 209, according to which the Commissioner may take measures to prevent torture and other ill-treatment through regular visits to places of detention.
Also, in accordance with article 209 of the Law, the Commissioner shall create an expert group to facilitate his/her activities. The expert group shall be composed of representatives of NGOs with professional and practical knowledge in the field of jurisprudence, medicine, psychology, pedagogy, and other areas. The Commissioner shall determine the tasks for the members of the expert group and issue special orders to allow them to freely visit places of detention and other facilities from which persons are not permitted to leave at will.
Here it should be noted that the Law establishes the main elements of the preventive mechanism - regular visits to places of detention.
Although Uzbekistan is not a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (hereinafter – the Protocol), it can be said, however, that, taking into consideration its provisions, as well as within the framework of fulfilling its international obligations and the provisions of the Convention against Torture, the country has created its ‘national preventive mechanism’.
Based on the provisions of the Protocol, a ‘national preventive mechanism’ (hereinafter – NPM) means one or several visiting bodies established, designated or maintained at the domestic level in order for the prevention of torture and other inhuman treatment. Article 3 of the Protocol obligates States parties to set up, designate or maintain such bodies.
The rationale of establishing an NPM was substantiated in detail by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture (A/61/259). According to him, the rationale ‘is based on experience that torture and ill-treatment usually take place in isolated places of detention, where those who practise torture feel confident that they are outside the reach of effective monitoring and accountability.’ ‘Accordingly, the only way of breaking this vicious cycle is to expose places of detention to public scrutiny and to make the entire system in which police, security and intelligence officials operate more transparent and accountable to external monitoring.’
The Law, as already stated above, establishes a new preventive mechanism, which grants the Commissioner the right to take measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment through regular visits to places of detention, as well as to take similar measures at other facilities from which persons are not permitted to leave at will.
In addition, important steps have been taken recently to strengthen the national system for the protection of human rights, in particular:
– the National Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Human Rights has been adopted;
– in order to implement the National Strategy and further expand the powers of the Parliament in exercising parliamentary control over the implementation of Uzbekistan’s international human rights obligations, the Parliamentary Commission on Compliance with International Human Rights Obligations has been established;
– the position of the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child has been established;
– measures have been taken to improve the status of the National Human Rights Centre of the Republic of Uzbekistan;
In addition, it should be separately emphasized that Uzbekistan has been elected to UN Human Rights Council.
To date, in order to further implement international norms and improve national legislation and preventive practice in this area, the Parliamentary Commission on Compliance with International Human Rights Obligations, together with the competent state authorities, carries out the following:
First. According to the Protocol, certain categories of institutions inherently fall within the scope of the definition ‘place of detention’ and could be stated in a non-exhaustive definition in national law for purposes of clarity. For example, such institutions can include psychiatric institutions, juvenile detention centers, places of administrative detention, etc.
In this regard, the issue of including in the legislation a number of the main institutions, which the NPM can regularly visit, is being considered.
Second. In accordance with the Convention against Torture, the concepts of ‘torture’ and ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ are differentiated depending on the form, purpose of committing and the level of severity of the suffering inflicted on the victim by this act.
In view of this, the issue of differentiating the concepts of ‘torture’ and ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ and establishing in the legislation of their clear definitions and measures of liability for these acts is being considered.
Third. As part of the implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture, the quality of information and educational activities on human rights is being improved, that is, work is underway to inform about the essence and content of laws on the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. It is planned to include the subject of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment in training programs not only for law enforcement officials, but also for medical, pedagogical personnel and other employees who may be involved in the treatment of persons in places of detention.
Fourth. The issue of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture is being considered, and in view of this, it is planned to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to Uzbekistan.
Thus, it can be noted that active, targeted and systemic measures are being taken in Uzbekistan to further improve the national preventive mechanism aimed at better prevention and averting of torture and attempts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
It should be admitted that, of course, there are still a number of unresolved problems in this area in Uzbekistan today. However, there is political will to move forward with human rights reforms.
In conclusion, we would like to quote the words of the speech by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council stating that Uzbekistan ‘shall continue to strictly suppress all forms of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment’, and ‘as a member of the Human Rights Council shall defend and actively promote the universal principles and norms of international human rights law.’
  See ‘Opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at a press conference during his mission to Uzbekistan’ (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21607&LangID=E).
 Report of the Special UN Rapporteur on torture, para. 67, UN General Assembly A61/259 (14 August 2006).
 See Guide for the Establishment and Designation of NPMs (2006), APT, p.18.
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