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[Contribution] Uzbekistan chooses path of protecting human rights, freedoms

By Korea Herald

Published : April 18, 2023 - 23:08

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Referendum in Uzbekistan. (Uzbek Embassy in Seoul) Referendum in Uzbekistan. (Uzbek Embassy in Seoul)

On April 30, a referendum on amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan will be held. The new constitution is aimed to change the principle "state -- society -- person" to "person -- society -- state," in other words, to put the interests of an individual above everything else.

According to the draft of the new constitution, human honor and dignity are inviolable, and nothing can be grounds for its discrimination. At the same time, ambiguities in legislation covering interactions of citizens with state bodies will be interpreted in favor of the citizen.

In this context, it is worth emphasizing that these measures clearly reflect the country’s development directions and actions undertaken in protecting human rights. In 2020, the National Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Human Rights was adopted. The strategy is aimed at protecting personal, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as in the field of sustainable development. The improvement of mechanisms for the implementation of international human rights standards in legislation and law enforcement practice was also established as a priority.

It is remarkable that thanks to the implemented reforms the issues of ensuring human rights and freedoms in Uzbekistan are under the close attention of not only the state, but also of the whole society. Within the framework of the current legislation, civil society institutions take the most active part in its improvement, public monitoring of the rights of socially vulnerable segments of the population, informational and educational activities, as well as in the preparation of periodic national and alternative reports on the fulfillment of international obligations in the sphere of human rights.

Human rights issues in Uzbekistan’s foreign policy

The protection of human rights is also a priority in the foreign policy of Uzbekistan. The government attaches great importance to the development of international cooperation in this area. The interaction is carried out in line with the basic principles and measures established by the UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documents.

In particular, during a recent meeting with President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk highly praised Uzbekistan’s achievements in eliminating child and forced labor, promoting gender equality, ensuring the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

In addition, the ratification by Uzbekistan of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the establishment of a national preventive mechanism for the prevention of torture with the participation of civil society institutions, and the repatriation of women and children from conflict zones, as well as the creation of all the necessary conditions for their social reintegration were particularly emphasized.

As a confirmation of the fulfillment of its international obligations within the framework of cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council, in 2018, Uzbekistan extended a standing invitation to all thematic mandate holders of the UN special procedures.

For instance, Garcia-Sayan Diego, the special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, visited Uzbekistan in September 2019.

From Nov. 29 to Dec. 7, 2021, at the invitation of the government, a delegation led by Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, paid a visit to the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Alice Edwards, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, is expected to visit Uzbekistan in 2023.

Recognition of int'l community

It should be noted, that the reforms undertaken in this area have gained deserved recognition at the international level. In October 2020, Uzbekistan became a member of the UN Human Rights Council, a high-profile UN intergovernmental body, with its mission to promote and protect human rights around the world. Uzbekistan’s candidacy was supported by 169 of 193 UN member-states. This event took place for the first time in the history of our national statehood.

In February 2021, President Mirziyoyev took part and addressed the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

This was the first time when Uzbekistan was represented at the highest political level on the global human rights platform. Since the foundation of the council in 2006, only 20 heads of state have directly addressed the annual sessions of the world's principal human rights body. Uzbekistan was the first post-Soviet country to take advantage of this privilege.

Today, the world community considers the New Uzbekistan as a stable and dynamically developing state of democratic transformations, a country of great opportunities and practical affairs. For example, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that “under the leadership of the President of Uzbekistan, the country is contributing to international efforts related to climate change, environmental protection and regional connectivity, while undertaking a significant reform process. Uzbekistan, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, has taken on a special obligation to promote and protect human rights. The United Nations will continue to count on the Republic of Uzbekistan to promote the values and principles enshrined in the UN Charter.”

The initiatives of our president put forward in the international political arena, including on issues of ensuring human rights and interests of citizens, strengthening regional cooperation, are gaining more and more recognition from the world community. Over the past years, 11 documents initiated by the president of the Republic of Uzbekistan have been adopted at the international level.

In 2018-2022, at the president’s initiative, six important UN General Assembly special resolutions were adopted aimed at strengthening regional and international cooperation in order to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian Region, promoting tolerance, nondiscrimination and respect for human rights based on the implementation of the principle of "Enlightenment against ignorance"; supporting tourism and sustainable development of our region; transformation of the Aral Sea Region into a zone of ecological innovations and technologies; strengthening connectivity between Central and South Asia; strengthening the role of parliaments in accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Only in 2022, a number of documents prepared by the Uzbek side were disseminated as the UN documents. These are, in particular, the Bukhara Declaration of the International Forum "Dialogue of Declarations," the Tashkent Declaration of the International Conference dedicated to the tenth anniversary of the joint implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia, the documents of the Samarkand SCO Summit on dialogue and cooperation in an interconnected world, as well as the Samarkand Solidarity Initiative for the Sake of Common Security and Prosperity.

Reports, implementation of recommendations

Over the past few years, Uzbekistan has developed a system of reporting to the UN mechanisms, which meets international requirements and provides timely preparation and submission of national reports on the fulfillment of its obligations in the sphere of human rights and freedoms.

A key component of this system is the preparation and adoption of National Action Plans for the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Charter and Treaty Bodies following the consideration of national reports.

In 2022, the UN treaty committees heard three national reports of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

For the first time, more than 10 nongovernmental nonprofit organizations have taken part in the presentation of reports via videoconferencing. Along with this, for the implementation of the recommendations made in the final comments to the national reports, the national plans were approved by the joint resolution of the Kengashes (Councils) of the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis.

In general, it can be noted with confidence that our country has chosen the path of building a democratic state governed by the rule of law with a socially oriented market economy and the formation of a civil society. The long-term goal of reforms in Uzbekistan is to join the ranks of modern developed, democratic states, to provide the people with decent living conditions and a worthy place in the world community.

To this end, Uzbekistan intends to hold a referendum to amend the constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which must guarantee all human rights and freedoms, regardless of gender, nationality, faith and beliefs. The new constitution will also strengthen the democratic processes in the country, which are becoming progressive and irreversible.

Timur Akhmedov is department head at the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies under the president of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Views expressed in this article are his own. --Ed.