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Human Rights Committee considers the report of Uzbekistan

Human Rights Committee 

9 July 2015

The Human Rights Committee today completed its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Uzbekistan on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Islam Jasimov, Head of the Department for Supervision of the Implementation of Legislation at the Office of the Prosecutor General, presenting the report, stated that the improvement of the legislative basis for the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant had been a priority for the State party.  The electoral system had been revised with a positive impact in the last elections for the Parliament and the President.  There was a new law on the openness of State bodies and authorities.  Over 8,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including 30 branches of foreign NGOs, were operational in the country.  In recent years, measures had been taken on the path towards the liberalization of the mass media. 

During the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts asked questions about the 2005 Andizhan incidents, combatting human trafficking, conditions in penitentiaries and the prevention of torture, alleged cases of forced sterilization of women and corporal punishment.  Issues of forced and child labour, especially in the cotton sector, were discussed at length.  The Committee also addressed the functioning of the Ombudsman, anti-discriminatory legislation, independence of judges and lawyers, combatting religious extremism while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and minority protection rights.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Jasimov expressed sincere gratitude for the courteous attitude towards the delegation of Uzbekistan.  The Experts had mastered the human rights situation in Uzbekistan; they had rightly pinpointed successes and shortcomings which ought to be addressed.  The Committee’s recommendations would be taken into consideration and made available to the appropriate bodies.  Uzbekistan had many good laws, but there were sometimes problems when it came to their implementation.  Uzbekistan would continue to work on improving its legislation, strengthening its legislative guarantees and fully implementing rules and regulations.  No violations of laws should go unsanctioned.

Fabian Omar Salvioli, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, recalled participating in the earlier review of Uzbekistan in 2010; some of the recommendations issued had been adopted since then, but some problems persisted when it came to implementation.  Another major focus of interest was torture – issues relating to the integrity of persons were of paramount importance.   Internal norms should be truly aligned with international standards in that regard; the Istanbul Protocol was a good yardstick in that regard.  Inviting Special Procedures to visit the country was vital to demonstrate that the State party was fully committed to fulfilling its international obligations. 

The delegation of Uzbekistan included representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor General, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, National Human Rights Centre and the Permanent Mission of Uzbekistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Friday, 10 July to start its consideration of the fifth periodic report of France (CCPR/C/FRA/5).

Report

The fourth period report of Uzbekistan is available here: CCPR/C/UZB/4.

Presentation of the Report

ISLAM JASIMOV, Head of the Department for Supervision of the Implementation of Legislation at the Office of the Prosecutor General, said that the relationship between Uzbekistan and the United Nations was steady and full of important events.  In June 2015, the United Nations Secretary-General had visited Uzbekistan, when priorities for the future cooperation had been established.  More than 30 State bodies and 20 non-governmental organizations had taken part in the preparation of the current report under review.  Uzbekistan had taken into consideration concluding observations of the Committee on the third periodic report.

A strategic programme for political and economic reforms had been presented by the President of Uzbekistan in November 2010.  Within that framework, 27 laws had been adopted, including, inter alia, on the freedom of elections, judicial independence and liberalization of governing structures.  Uzbekistan had introduced rules for candidates for the Prime Minister to come from a political party which had won the largest number of seats in Parliament.  Uzbekistan had achieved the Millennium Development Goals in numerous areas.

Improvement of the legislative basis for the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant had been a priority for the State party.  The electoral system had been accordingly revised, which had had a positive impact in the last elections for Parliament and the President, which were widely seen as having been conducted in a fair and democratic manner.  An effectively democratic system for the selection of judges and their training had been established, and the application of the institute of habeas corpus had been spread.  Consultations on how to improve the definition of torture were taking place; access to lawyers had been expanded.  There was a new law on the openness of State bodies and authorities.  Over 8,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including 30 branches of foreign NGOs, were operational in the country.  In recent years, measures had been taken on the path towards the liberalization of the mass media. 

Uzbekistan had also focused on developing the institutional basis for the protection and promotion of human rights.  Allocated resources to national institutions had been increased, and coordination between State bodies and civil society organizations had been improved through the establishment of a number of structures.  The Government had contributed to the promotion of human rights education, with the Declaration of Human Rights translated into the State language in large circulation.  All citizens had access to the legislation of the Republic through the website www.lex.uz, in both Uzbek and Russian languages.

Mr. Jasimov stated that Uzbekistan had submitted more than 35 reports to the United Nations human rights treaty bodies, and was working closely with the Human Rights Council and the Special Procedures.  Responses had been provided to more than 60 inquiries put forward by Special Procedures.  Uzbekistan continued to cooperate in the human rights  dimension with the Venice Commission, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Uzbekistan, like many other States, was facing an economic recession, which had an impact on the most vulnerable groups in society.  Overcoming difficulties in the transition to the democratic system of governance included developing a strong civil society and creating a culture of human rights.  Being located in Central Asia, Uzbekistan was exposed to a wide array of peace and stability challenges.  Increasing drug use and the strengthening of the drug mafia were major challenges.  The threat of international terrorism and extremism was also diverting State resources.  All of those domestic and external difficulties needed to be taken into consideration when considering the implementation of the Covenant in the State party.  Uzbekistan was prepared for an open and honest dialogue with the Committee.

Questions by Experts

An Expert reminded that Uzbekistan had acceded to the Covenant in 1995.  She wanted to hear more about the work of the interdepartmental working group in a number of cases.  The case Musaev vs. Uzbekistan was found to have violated article 7 on prohibition against torture.   What measures were in place to provide litigants to seek the implementation of the Committee’s views?  The Committee had asked for a retrial in line with the spirit of the Covenant or the release of the person in question. 

What action had been taken to protect authors of individual communications to the Committee and their lawyers?

What was the statutory status of the human rights institutions and how was their independence ensured, in accordance with the Paris Principles?

Regulations on the state of emergency were not fully in line with the Covenant, the Expert noted and asked what was being done in that regard.  Derogations under Article 9 could be done only when absolutely necessary, in line with a judicial decision.  Could the State party specify what it meant by “contemporary challenges and threat to public”, given that there was a concern about the overly broad definitions?

The legal framework of the State party did not seem to cover all grounds for discrimination, such as sexual orientation and gender identity.  What were the prosecutorial authorities doing to implement the anti-discriminatory legislation?  Could examples of case ruling and remedies awarded be provided? 

What were the concrete measures being taken to prohibit and prosecute racial hatred, an Expert asked.  Did individuals have access to the Ombudsman to place complaints related with racial discrimination?

Could the delegation elaborate on the national plan of action to implement recommendations of the Human Rights Council and human rights treaty bodies?

The Expert noted that the State party had rejected decriminalization of consenting sexual relations between men.  The delegation was asked for an update.  What steps had Uzbekistan taken to ensure accountability of law enforcement officials found to have harassed persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The delegation was asked to elaborate on how the issue of marital rape was dealt with in Uzbekistan.  Law enforcement officials were said to often discourage women from reporting cases of domestic violence.

More information was sought about measures taken to amend the law on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials.

Another Expert brought up the issue of the 2005 Andizhan incidents, on which trials had been reportedly held in secret.   The Government had rejected recommendations to set up a full and impartial inquiry.  More information was sought.

The question of deaths in prison  was raised by the Expert.  They seemed to have been caused by conditions and mistreatment in prisons.  In some cases, corpses had been buried without autopsies carried out.  What did the delegation have to say about those allegations?

What measures had been taken by the State to prevent the sterilization of women in rural areas, and Roma women, who had more than two children?

Corporal punishment seemed to be continuing in family settings, the Expert noted.  Did the Government intend to ratify a law on violence within the family? 

Another Expert commented that Uzbekistan should elaborate a human rights policy in line with its historic prestige.  He asked questions about extradited persons, who had committed serious crimes in Uzbekistan, and who were at risk of suffering torture and being tried without legal safeguards.  The Government denied the existence of such anomalies, but evidence showed otherwise.  Were there mechanisms in place for prisoners to complain about torture?  Extraditions to Uzbekistan also presented a problem.

Pursuant to the recent information collected by the Committee, abductions from other countries continued to occur.  A case was brought up of a person heading a prohibited civil society organization who had fled to Russia, but had been subsequently abducted and brought back.

Questions on trafficking in persons and forced labour were also raised by the Expert, who asked about the action plans and the work of the inter-ministerial commissions investigating such cases.  The problem seemed to be prosecutions and sentences passed against those responsible.  What kind of trafficking in persons was being looked at?

Legal measures were only words unless they were fully implemented by the authorities, an Expert said.    In 2014, 17 deaths had been reported as caused by poor working conditions in the cotton sector.  Children were also reported to have been used as labourers, for cotton harvests and silk production.  There seemed to be a discrepancy between the standards and the reality, on which the delegation was asked to comment.

Another Expert noted a number of positive changes, including legislative changes, with regard to preventing torture.  The State party had reported prosecuting a number of persons for carrying out acts of torture.  Could the delegation specify the types of offences for which amnesty might be granted?  Did that include torture? What would the rationale be for granting amnesty to those convicted of acts of torture?

The International Committee of the Red Cross was not always allowed to speak to detainees without officials present, the Expert noted.  The Ombudsman was also allowed, by rules and regulations, to visit prisons without hindrance – how frequent were such visits carried out in practice?  Was there periodic monitoring carried out in psychiatric wards in the penitentiary system?

No evidence obtained through torture should be admissible in courts, the Expert stressed, and listed the Musaev case as an example.  Had the cases of the victims of torture been reviewed?

An Expert was concerned about the problematic notion that sexual relations between men were the cause of the spread of HIV/AIDS.  How could the State party combat discrimination if such a statement was included in its official report?

He brought up examples of several individuals who had been charged to 16 years in prison for what the authorities said was incitement to religious hatred or promoting extremism and separatism.  Were those sentences not too harsh, the Expert asked.  

Persons with disabilities in the criminal justice system were subject to discrimination as they would sometimes have benefits they were entitled to withdrawn.  Could the delegation comment on that?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that it had not managed to note some of the names, which should be provided in writing, so that the delegation could prepare its responses accordingly.

Regarding the interdepartmental working group on the protection of human rights, under the Ministry of Justice, it was said that a national action plan had been developed in 2010.  The working group, as a unique body, had been established as a part of the plan and brought together all resources from various sides.  It was important to know that under the action plan, the working group was in charge of reviewing complaints on torture.  Civil society organizations were active in the working group.  In 2014, the national action plan had been adopted on the implementation of the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.

On the situation of Lyuli/Roma, the delegation said that in legislative terms there was no discrimination against anyone.  Ninety-eight per cent of respondents among them in a recent survey had said that there was no infringement of their rights; 92 per cent lived in their own homes. 84 per cent of them had the status of citizens of Uzbekistan, while the rest had residency permits.  Regarding employment, all respondents had said that they were employed in the service sector.

Uzbekistan was working very closely with the International Labour Organization, whose 13 conventions it had ratified.  Uzbekistan’s progress on child labour had been received very positively by the ILO.  Uzbekistan would conduct a survey on labour conditions in the agricultural sector.  A major conference in August 2015 in Tashkent would look into the results of the survey. 

An extremist religious organization had been pursuing the goal of establishing a caliphate in a part of Uzbekistan.  In December 2006, a large group of European Union experts had visited Andizhan.  All doors had been opened to the commission and they had seen the video footage.  The delegation quoted statements by the head of the commission, who had spoken affirmatively about receiving answers to all of their questions.   In 2007, another European investigative commission had visited and had been shown the same evidence.  What more could be done? 

Those who had been found guilty for their activities in Andizhan were serving their sentences; those who had not had their hands covered by blood had been set free.  For Uzbekistan, the Andizhan events were a closed issue and the State party had no intention of reopening it.

The main function of the National Centre for Human Rights  was to prepare national plans of action in the field of human rights and to draft reports on their implementation.  It also coordinated activities among State bodies and promoted the awareness of human rights in the country.  The Centre was a legal entity, whose activities corresponded to the Paris Principles.  It could also receive complaints from the general public. 

The Ombudsman had been established in 1995, to ensure monitoring of State bodies and officials.  The Ombudsman received complaints from citizens and developed international cooperation, among other activities.  Complaints given to the Ombudsman were not subject to state taxes.  The Ombudsman paid particular attention to the protection of persons in prisons and those held in pre-trial detention.  All of the oblasts also carried out monitoring of penitentiary conditions.

In 2014, the Ombudsman had considered 112 complaints from persons deprived of liberty, the delegation specified.  In four cases, it had been possible to restore the rights of complainants.

The authorities were making a daily effort to fight trafficking in human beings, the delegation stressed.  Every month, reports were heard from the working group on the progress made in that regard.  Based on the analysis of causes of human trafficking, a plan of action had been drawn up.  Social rehabilitation of the victims of human trafficking was given significant attention.  Victims had the right to decide whether to stay in Uzbekistan or go abroad; there were no bans on their movement.

The delegation specified that over the previous four years, more than 4.5 million manuals and booklets on human trafficking had been produced; 33,000 activities had been carried out, many involving mass media.  Posters and billboards to raise public awareness were ubiquitous.  Uzbekistan could not do that alone and thus cooperated closely with a number of countries.

It was emphasized that not all information contained in alternative reports was factual.  Uzbekistan was a country of origin when it came to human trafficking.  The entire legal system was working towards ensuring that the undertaken international obligations were fulfilled. 

Responding to the question on sterilization, the delegation stated that a major programme had been undertaken to improve women’s health.  Access to contraception was among ways to ensure that unwanted pregnancies were avoided.  A survey had shown that 71 per cent of women in Uzbekistan used contraception; six per cent of women used sterilization as a means of contraception.  That method was used around the world, and was conducted only when it was absolutely vital to avoid another pregnancy, and with a written consent by the women in question.  Nobody had yet complained to courts on being forcibly sterilized.  No enforced sterilization was conducted in Uzbekistan – it was a fabricated issue. 

On the issue of torture, the delegation informed that Uzbekistan was still studying recommendations by the Committee to change the existing definition.  Uzbekistan was using the Roman-Germanic law, on whose principles its criminal code was constructed. People in pre-trial detention or those deprived of liberty were covered by article 235; all other situations were described by other articles.  Even while the current concept of torture in Uzbekistan had been well studied by its scholars, the State party was ready to consider alternatives, as proposed by the Committee. 

The delegation could not agree that there was no direct prohibition of the use of torture.  Even if there was no direct prohibition in other laws, the Constitution, as the basic law, had direct applicability.  Nobody could be subjected to torture, violence or any other undignified treatment; the Criminal Execution Code went along those lines as well.  Sixteen people had been held liable for torture in 2012, out of whom 13 had been convicted.  In 2013, 95 complaints had come through, out of which eight persons had been convicted.  In 2014, 33 people had been convicted.  Instances of torture did occur, but the State party was committed to eradicating torture.

Regarding amnesty, the delegation said that granting amnesty was a sign of humanism, and was a prerogative of the Senate, to which the President presented a proposal.  Amnesty could only be applied to one person once.  There were certain cases in which amnesty was more likely than in others, such as for women, those under 18 and seniors.

Turning to a publication by Amnesty International, the delegation clarified that investigations into torture were exclusively conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office.  There was not a single mosque in the country controlled by the State, so it was untrue that Muslims going to “non-State condoned mosques” were exposed to torture.  When there was a spread of religious extremism by terrorist organizations, it was clear that the State was going to combat it.

On racial and ethnic discrimination, it was explained that  racial or ethnic hatred was an aggravating circumstance when a crime was committed. 

The delegation said that it was fantastic to believe that Uzbek authorities would simply abduct persons from Russia or other countries.  Uzbekistan used legal channels to secure extradition of criminals; allegations that secret services abducted people were categorically rejected.  Any request for extradition was verified by the General Prosecutor, after which process for extradition followed.

The threat of terrorism was real for Uzbekistan today, the delegation stressed.  The geo-political situation, with the Islamic State at its borders, was very complex.  Uzbekistan had a law on combatting terrorism and was cooperating with partners within the Shanghai agreements and the CIS on fighting that scourge.  Terrorism was one of the most serious and unacceptable crimes, which could lead to life in prison.

The use of firearms was regulated by the Ministry of the Interior.  Rules covered all issues very well, and included safeguards such as prior warning.  In the first five months of 2015, five persons had been convicted for the abuse of firearms. 

On permanent monitoring of psychiatric hospitals, the delegation said that it was done by the Ministry of Health.

Uzbekistan had ratified two Optional Protocols to the Covenant – on individual communications and on  the abolition of the death penalty.  On the former,  the State party was working very closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and there was no question that had not been answered. 

Regarding trafficking in persons, Uzbekistan was very supportive of international efforts on related matters.  Uzbekistan was an active participant in the group of friends, composed of 22 countries combatting human trafficking. 

The delegation informed that Uzbekistan was working closely with the International Labour Organization, including on the implementation of national standards to prohibit forced labour.  An independent survey was conducted this year, the results of which would be discussed in August, and should help identify problems related to labour in the agricultural sector.  International organizations, trade unions, diplomatic representatives and all other stakeholders would be invited to the August event. 

A major programme for the modernization of the agricultural sector was underway, including improving conditions of cotton harvests.  During the ILO visit to Uzbekistan in 2014, no systematic use of child or forced labour had been identified.  Ministry of Labour officials were being regularly trained by the International Labour Organization.
Any statement that Uzbekistan was not cooperating with Special Procedures was controversial, a delegate noted.  Uzbekistan regularly answered questions posed by Special Procedures.  Inviting Special Procedures to visit was a sovereign prerogative of Member States of the United Nations.  Uzbekistan was committed to working with all mechanisms of the United Nations in the field of human rights.

Questions by Experts

An Expert was concerned over the time it took before a person was brought before a judge.  The Committee had expressed its concern in that regard on several occasions.  Bringing a person before a judge within 48 hours was important to prevent ill-treatment and torture.  Why were the hearings closed?  Was the presence of defence lawyers mandatory?  The physical presence of the detainee in hearings was indispensable, the Expert stressed.

The Expert was concerned to read that a number of prisoners had to stay in prison well beyond their actual sentence.  Could the delegation provide statistical data on cases in which prisoners served an additional sentence after the completion of their original sentence?  What judicial means of review were in place to challenge post-conviction detention, the Expert asked.

It was disconcerting that non-compliance with prison rules could give rise to a criminal conviction under the Criminal Code, the Expert noted.

Was it true that judges were appointed by the President for renewable five-year terms? It was important to prevent undue influence by the executive in practice.  Could the delegation provide statistical data indicating the ratio of criminal convictions in comparison to indictments?  

There were also concerns that lawyers’ independence and professional discharge of their professional functions were affected.  How could lawyers demonstrate that they undertook regular training every three years and updated their knowledge, as requested by the law?

Another Expert noted that detainees had the right to be informed of the reason for their arrest.  They also, inter alia, enjoyed the right to medical care and check-ups.  What happened in actual practice?  Arbitrary detentions seemed to continue to be the rule.  Habeas corpus was not always respected, it appeared.

Questions were asked on proselytizing and other missionary activities.  Were Muslims not controlled by the Government exposed to ill-treatment?  How about the treatment of religious minorities, primarily Christians?

The Expert stressed that it was clear that certain forms of religious extremism and the teaching thereof constituted danger – a feeling shared by the entire Muslim world.  Using the just cause of fighting extremism as a pretext for achieving other goals, such as crushing human rights defenders, was in contradiction with international law. 

The issue of visitation rights was raised by an Expert.  Some cells were very small, without windows, and prisoners were forced to do hard labour.  Some reports indicated that prisoners were not provided sufficient food or drinks.  Were there any statistics on complaints?

What were the measures in place to allow human rights organizations, including the Red Cross, to conduct unannounced visits to prisons?

Another Expert turned to the liberty of movement, noting that it was difficult to get residence permits in large cities.  The system exerted control over people’s place of residence.  Could the delegation provide information on measures taken to bring the system in line with the Covenant?

The Expert said that there were reports that the authorities had delayed or denied exit visas for human rights defenders or journalists.

There were also concerns over the lack of a legislative framework for the protection of refugees, who were sometimes considered as migrants.

How were minorities defined in Uzbek legislation and what particular steps were taken to protect minority languages, the Expert inquired.  Were members of the minority groups sufficiently informed of their rights on access to remedies?

An Expert raised the issue of the treatment of human rights defenders.  Some of them were over 60 and could be subject to amnesty, in the spirit of humanism, but were still held in prisons.

How did registration of non-governmental organizations work in practice, the Expert asked.

Could insulting the President lead to up to five years in prison?  Could journalists be held liable for providing non-objective information?  A correspondent for the Voice of America, for example, had been found guilty in 2010 for felony and slender, and declared a threat to public order and national security.  Some news and human rights websites were reportedly blocked – could that information be confirmed or denied?

Turning to political rights, the Expert asked about the legislation on the registration of political parties.  What were the necessary preconditions?  A number of international organizations found those provisions rather restrictive.  How many political parties had taken part in the latest campaign?  Could only political parties put forward candidates for the President?

The issue of the Andizhan killings was raised again by an Expert.  He noted that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe had not conducted its own fact-finding mission to Uzbekistan, and had called for one as recently as this year.  It was unclear how several visits by a few experts from the European Union would constitute an independent international investigation.  If there had been a proper European Union investigation, could the delegation provide its report?

On torture, the Expert said that putting in place measures capable of clarifying the facts and deterring the practice would be the best way to put the subject to rest.  The State party might want to provide for audio-visual recordings of all hearings in police stations.

An Expert wanted to know about measures taken to prevent suicides in prisons.  Were figures available in that regard?  Some deaths were suspicious, and their causes were not clear; the State held a prima facie responsibility for protecting the lives of individuals held in custody.

Another Expert returned to the issue of forced labour, commending efforts to eliminate child labour in the cotton industry.  Had a decrease in child labour led to an increase in adult forced labour? What steps were taken to address corruption in the cotton industry? There were reports that the authorities had suppressed the work of human rights defenders to report on the still existing phenomenon of forced labour.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had recently concluded that the electoral legal framework did not provide for the conduct of democratic elections.  Those deemed incapacitated or serving a prison sentence were not allowed to vote.  What measures were the State party planning to undertake in order to follow the OSCE recommendations?

On the issue of the judiciary, an Expert asked about the supervisory powers of the Procurator of the court.  The right to initiate criminal proceedings seemed to have been removed – did that mean that prosecutors had the right to initiate such proceedings?  Did the new appeal procedure apply to those cases in which there had been no possibility for appeal beforehand?

Responses by the Delegation

Concerning judicial functions, the delegation said that the entire plaintiff system was taken over by prosecutors.  Until 2001, there had been three instances of courts: first, cassation and supervisory.  An appellate court had been introduced subsequently.  The timeframe for appeal had been extended.

With regard to Andizhan, the delegation reiterated that, at the request of the OSCE, all doors had been opened and many documents and files had been translated to Russian.  The legal status of visiting commissions was not something that the Uzbek authorities could help with.  The question of holding independent commissions had been closed.

On habeas corpus, it was explained that the practice now existed and courts were responsible for custody.  The courts indeed were impartial when considering appeals; in 2013, seven cases of intercession had been rejected.  Such a small number of rejections stemmed from the specific, tangible criteria in place.

There was no specific time during which a suspect should be brought before a judge mentioned in the Covenant; the State party considered 72 hours to be appropriate. Alternatives to custody were also being applied.  When detainees were not able to provide a lawyer, one was assigned by the State.

In Uzbekistan, courts were self-contained bodies, acting independently from the executive and the legislature, which did not have impact on the selection of judges. 

The bar association was  a body self-managed by citizens.  The Ministry of Justice had introduced regular training for lawyers so that they could keep their skills and knowledge up to date.  On the range of competence of lawyers, the law provided that lawyers not carrying out their functions properly would be removed from the bar.

Citizens of Uzbekistan had passports which worked both within the country and abroad.  One could leave the country freely, the delegation said.  There were no problems or complaints regarding statelessness.

Uzbekistan was not a State party to the Convention on Refugees

At the beginning of the year, more than 10 million people had been connected to the internet, the delegation informed.

The delegation said that over 8,000 registered non-governmental organizations existed in the country today, testifying to the pro-active nature of the citizens.  State taxes for the registration of NGOs had been decreased.  Human Rights Watch had not provided information on its finances and held events without approval, which was why its license had been removed. 

On the question on registration of political parties, there were four registered parties at the moment, which had taken part in the recent election. 

The State party allowed for freedom of conscience and organization, which provided for missionary and proselytizing activities.

The penitentiary system in Uzbekistan was given great attention; medical visits were regular and there were opportunities for education.  It was a transparent system, the delegation stressed, open to visits by diplomats and the Red Cross.

Uzbekistan was working on establishing a national preventive mechanism against torture.

Those who had conscientious objections were free to choose an alternative service to the military.  In recent years, nobody had been called to military service against their will. Individuals were free to choose their own religion.

Cotton was one of the main sources of income in Uzbekistan, the delegation stressed, adding that not all farmers were in a position to harvest cotton themselves, which was why the State was helping them.  By 2017, it was hoped that 90 per cent of cotton harvesting would be mechanized.

The delegation explained that police and pre-trial detention cells had cameras installed.

Allegations on the persecution of journalists were unfounded.

Follow-up Question

An Expert asked if cameras and audio equipment were available in places where interrogations were held and if they were always used.

Response by the Delegation

The delegation did not have specific information on that issue at the moment and would need to reply in writing.

The delegation said that Uzbekistan was continuing to ensure the best possible conditions for the work of the mass media.  Efforts were being made to ensure transparency and openness.  There were more than 1,400 mass media outlets registered at the moment; the majority of them were non-State media.  All State bodies had their own websites, which made access to information easier.  There were 27 foreign media outlets registered in Uzbekistan as of April 2015.  Fifteen languages were used in broadcast media, representing various linguistic and ethnic minorities.

Human rights were protected in emergency situations.  An international conference had recently discussed a draft law on the subject matter; a bill was being currently considered, with the protection of the rights of citizens as a paramount goal.

On the use of torture, the delegation underscored that it was explicitly and unambiguously prohibited by the Constitution, which was directly applicable.  Detainees could put their complaints in post boxes in their jails; those boxes could be opened only by the Ombudsman and the Prosecutor.  The Prosecutor regularly visited places of detention. 

There was a clear prohibition on the use of evidence extracted by torture.   The regulatory basis was developed, but there was certainly room for improvement and Uzbekistan was ready to learn from the best international practices.

None of the international observers present at the last election had raised the question on term in office.  Following the amendments to the Constitution in 2007, the powers of the President had been severely reduced.  It was the right of every independent State to define the term of office which was best in its interest.  The President was serving his first term, following the constitutional changes.

A special sub-unit in the Prosecutor’s Office specifically dealt with combatting corruption in all spheres, including agriculture.  One State interactive portal for more than 600 services had been established; citizens could go to that “one stop shop” without going through the traditional bureaucracy. 

It was explained that, previously, anyone who had received a bribe would be given a more severe sentence than those who had provoked the crime; now there was an equal criminal liability. 

Uzbek citizens who intended to travel abroad needed to apply for an exit visa from the Interior Ministry’s local Office of Visas and Registration.

Discrimination on any ground was prohibited.  Women and men were legally equal in their rights, which was guaranteed by the Constitution.  Women were represented in the two lower and upper houses of the Parliament at 16 and 17 per cent, respectively.  Women held more than 17 per cent of high posts in the administration; three per cent of all Uzbek Ambassadors were women. 

Absolute access to education was ensured to all ethnic groups; hundreds of schools operated in minority languages.  More than 130 ethnic groups, small and large, lived in Uzbekistan; there were dozens of cultural centres in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan shared the position of Muslim countries on the question of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.  Legalization of same-sex marriages was hard to envision in that predominantly Muslim country.

The delegation asked for all the personal names mentioned during the interactive dialogue to be provided in writing, so that proper replies could be prepared. 

Concluding Remarks

ISLAM JASIMOV, Head of the Department for Supervision of the Implementation of Legislation at the Office of the Prosecutor General, expressed sincere gratitude for the courteous attitude towards the delegation of Uzbekistan.  The Experts had mastered the human rights situation in Uzbekistan; they had rightly pinpointed successes and shortcomings which ought to be addressed.  The Committee’s recommendations would be taken into consideration and made available to the appropriate bodies.  Uzbekistan had many good laws, but there were sometimes problems when it came to their implementation.  Uzbekistan would continue to work on improving its legislation, strengthening its legislative guarantees and fully implementing rules and regulations.  No violations of laws should go unsanctioned.  Uzbekistan appreciated the support of other countries and international organizations in that regard.

FABIAN OMAR SALVIOLI, Chairperson of the Committee, recalled participating in the earlier review of Uzbekistan in 2010; some of the recommendations issued had been adopted since then, but some problems persisted when it came to implementation.  It was good to hear that the Ombudsman and other relevant bodies would be receiving the Committee’s concluding observations.  No member of the Committee had referred to same-sex marriage, but rather to the criminalization of sexual relations of persons of the same sex.  Another major focus of interest was torture – issues relating to the integrity of persons were of paramount importance.  Internal norms should be truly aligned with international standards in that regard; the Istanbul Protocol was a good yardstick in that regard.  Inviting Special Procedures to visit the country was vital to demonstrate that the State party was fully committed to fulfilling its international obligations. 

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