Experts of Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Commend Uzbekistan on fulfilling its Treaty Obligations

OHCHR

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Uzbekistan on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Committee Experts commended Uzbekistan on the positive steps taken toward fulfilling its treaty obligations, while asking about corruption and violence against children in the country. 

A Committee Expert, commended Uzbekistan on the positive steps it had taken toward fulfilling its treaty obligations on economic, social and cultural rights, and for ratifying a number of human rights treaties.  The Expert noted that Uzbekistan was undertaking reforms to fight corruption, including the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Act (and the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency, for which it was commended.  The Committee asked how effective the measures had been to curb corruption.  What were the number of investigations, prosecutions and sentences handed down in relation to corruption offences?  One Committee Expert said that in order to prevent violence against children, the State had created the position of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights.  How were the mechanisms for protecting children evaluated?  What measures were being taken to ensure equality for Roma children regarding access to education?

Responding to questions about corruption, the delegation said that there were 7,101 corruption crimes, according to a 2021 analysis, the majority of which were in the health care and banking spheres.  The State had seized over 120 million dollars, and fined perpetrators over 50 million dollars in these cases.  The Academy of the Prosecutor carried out training courses related to combatting corruption for public officials.  Through these courses, over 400 officials were requalified in 2021.  An online course and platform for anti-corruption education had also been developed for public and private individuals.  The delegation responded to questions on violence against children, saying that work had been done to raise awareness of children’s rights and to protect children from discrimination.  Five humanitarian actions had been carried out with the United Nations Children’s Fund to return 332 children from areas of armed conflict, to reintegrate these children into society, and give them access to education and medical services.  The delegation said that there were more than 50,000 Roma people in Uzbekistan and the State had carried out measures to alleviate their problems.  Minors had been placed in educational facilities.

Akmal Saidov, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan and Head of Delegation, said large-scale democratic reforms had been carried out in Uzbekistan over the last five years, with 300 new laws adopted and more than 4,000 decisions passed by the President, aimed at fundamentally reforming all spheres of life of the State and society.  Uzbekistan had adopted legislative measures to ensure human rights, but the need for a timely response was growing due to the COVID pandemic.  Measures were being taken to protect the right to life and health and ensure access to health care for all, without any discrimination, paying particular attention to vulnerable segments of the population, including the elderly, disabled, women, migrants, and the homeless.  New laws had also been passed on affordable housing, education, participation of civil society institutions, protection of migrants and person with disabilities, and prevention of poverty.

In concluding remarks, Preeti Saran, Committee Expert, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, saying that the Committee appreciated the positive spirit of the State party.  She recommended that the delegation sign and ratify important treaties, including on human rights and refugees. 

Mr. Saidov expressed thanks to the Committee, saying that all the questions were constructive and forward looking, aimed at improving the rights and freedoms of people in Uzbekistan.  He concluded by saying that communication was the most important value for humankind, thanking the Committee for the constructive approach.  While a lot of problems had been tackled, a lot remained, with Uzbekistan ready to undertake these challenges.

Mohamed Ezzeldin Abdel-Moneim, Chair of the Committee, said that he appreciated the development strategy being applied by Uzbekistan, which showed good understanding of the Covenant.  He bid farewell to the delegation, wishing them good health and their country success and prosperity. 

The delegation of the Uzbekistan was comprised of representatives of the Ministry for Support of Mahalla and Family; the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations; the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction; the Ministry of Construction; the Ministry of Culture; the Ministry of Preschool Education; the Ministry of Public Education; the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education; the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Committee on Interethnic and Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries under the Cabinet of Ministers; the Committee on Budget and Economic Reforms; the Anti-Corruption Agency and; the Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to United Nations Office at Geneva.

Documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at https://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to start its consideration of the initial report of Bahrain (E/C.12/BHR/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the third periodic report on Uzbekistan (E/C.12/UZB/3).

Presentation of Report

AKMAL SAIDOV, Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan and Head of Delegation, said large-scale democratic reforms had been carried out in Uzbekistan over the last five years, with 300 new laws adopted and more than 4,000 decisions passed by the President aimed at fundamentally reforming all spheres of life of the State and society.  Strategies implemented by Uzbekistan included the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026, the National Strategy of Uzbekistan on Human Rights, and the Voluntary National Review on progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Uzbekistan had adopted legislative measures to ensure human rights, but the need for a timely response was growing due to the COVID pandemic.  Measures were being taken to protect the right to life and health and ensure access to health care for all, without any discrimination, paying particular attention to vulnerable segments of the population, including the elderly, disabled, women, migrants, and the homeless.  New laws had also been passed on affordable housing, education, participation of civil society institutions, protection of migrants and person with disabilities, and prevention of poverty.  Over 50 laws, decrees and resolutions of the President in these areas had been adopted in Uzbekistan.  They were aimed at curbing and preventing the spread of coronavirus infection; supporting the sanitary and epidemiological well-being and safety of the population; and meeting the need for medicines, medical products and essential goods.  Targeted social protection of the population had been provided, as well as active support for the economy and entrepreneurs.

In Uzbekistan, priority was given to the implementation of a consistent policy for the gradual and full provision of the rights provided for by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  This involved the adoption of legislation, followed by State programmes implementing the recommendations of the Committee; implementation of National Action Plans; the creation of institutions and information campaigns; and the involvement of non-governmental and international organizations in the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights.

Comprehensive measures had been taken to improve the activities of the Commissioner of the Oliy Majlis for Human Rights (Ombudsman), which was accredited with B status.  The institution of the Oliy Majlis Commissioner for Children’s Rights had also been established.  The powers of the Business Ombudsman to protect the interests of entrepreneurs in court had been expanded.  The Anti-Corruption Agency had been created.  On poverty reduction and employment, according to the data of 2020, 4 to 5 million people or 12 to 15 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line in Uzbekistan.  According to the results of 2021, the unemployment rate in Uzbekistan amounted to 9.4 per cent, having decreased by 1.7 per cent in annual terms; this affected 1.4 million people.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert commended Uzbekistan on the positive steps it had taken toward fulfilling its treaty obligations on economic, social and cultural rights, and for ratifying a number of human rights treaties.  The Expert also thanked the State party for implementing several of the recommendations contained in the Committee’s report dated 13 June 2014, including efforts to eliminate child labour, reduce statelessness, and achieve gender equality and women empowerment.  However, issues of fair trial, independence of judiciary, establishment of effective human rights institutions, and greater space for civil society to operate independently had not yet been addressed.  Was the Covenant invoked by national courts, and were those judgements made public?

Judges were appointed for an initial five-year term, followed by a 10-year term, and subsequently by a lifetime appointment.  The risk of not being extended could potentially place some pressure upon the judges, which might adversely impact upon their ability to remain independent.  Were there measures being taken or planned to prevent the interference by the executive and the legislative in the judiciary?  What was the mandate of the Supreme Judicial Council?

The Authorised Person of the Oliy Majlis for Human Rights (Ombudsman) was accredited with B status in December 2020 by the Subcommittee on Accreditation of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights.  What was the mandate of this Ombudsman in relation to the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights, and did it have an independent complaints mechanism?

Important steps had been taken to facilitate the registration of the non-governmental organizations and trade unions in Uzbekistan, while the current Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations Act regulated trade unions.  Could the Ministry of Justice deny the registration of non-governmental organizations and trade unions?  If so, on what grounds? 

The Committee Expert commended Uzbekistan for undertaking reforms to fight corruption, including the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Act (2017) and the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Agency.  How effective had these measures been to curb corruption?  What was the number investigations, prosecutions and sentences handed down in relation to corruption offences?

On climate change policy, the Expert commended Uzbekistan for its goal to reduce specific greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030, and the adoption of the Strategy for Transition to a Green Economy by 2030.  What policies had been put in place for the mitigation of natural disasters and climate change, particularly for marginalised groups?

What measures were in place to increase the low share of the gross domestic product allocated to public spending? What were the levels of poverty and extreme poverty?

On same-sex relations, the Expert noted that the State party had not considered the decriminalisation of such relations due to “the pressing need to combat the spread of HIV”.  Had the State party considered exploring a human rights-based approach, as some other countries had done, in dealing with the scourge of HIV? What efforts had been made to address the prevalence of violence, harassment and stigmatisation against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, including by law enforcement?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation thanked the Rapporteur for noting that many of the 2014 recommendations of the Committee had been implemented.  The State had ratified a law protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.  There were some laws that had not yet been ratified, including those related to refugees and stateless persons, however, there were efforts to eradicate statelessness.  One major achievement was the eradication of child labour and forced labour.  Environmental protection in the Aral Sea region was prioritised, and the situation had improved recently due to Government measures.  Work on education policies had been made that had encouraged increased participation in preschool and primary school attendance.  Children were now in school, rather than working in cotton fields.  The number of educational institutions in the region had increased from four to 10.

Women made up 50 per cent of senators, and more and more women were represented in the private and public sectors.  Measures taken to support women included work to increase their representation in State bodies through training and promotion.  In regional areas, there were advisers for governments with high female representation.  Three thousand persons from low-income families were being supported to earn places in higher education institutions.  All of the Mahala (self-governing bodies) were supported during the pandemic with the establishment of 203 support centres as well as a support hotline.  Financial support was also provided to low-income families during the pandemic.

In Uzbekistan, international human rights standards were incorporated into legislation as treaties were ratified.  The independence of the judiciary was guaranteed as it was an independent entity from the State.  Measures were in place to reform the judicial system, and the Supreme Judicial Council promoted the training of judges.  The Constitutional Court’s powers were expanded to ensure its transparency.  There were also measures in place to protect those involved in the court process, including victims and witnesses.

To combat corruption, more than 70 legislative acts had been adopted over the last five years.  The Anti-Corruption Agency had also been established, and a roadmap and State programme to combat corruption in State bodies were being implemented.  Academics were given the right to investigate corruption.  In all regions, territory councils were established to combat corruption.

According to a 2021 analysis, there were 7,101 corruption crimes, the majority of which were in the healthcare and banking spheres.  The State seized over 120 million dollars, and fined perpetrators over 50 million dollars in these cases.

The Academy of the Prosecutor carried out training courses related to combatting corruption for public officials.  Through these courses, over 400 officials were requalified in 2021.  An online course and platform for anti-corruption education had also been developed for public and private individuals.

Uzbekistan had unique experience in creating human rights institutions.  In recent years, special attention had been paid to protecting the rights of business through the Business Ombudsman.  In 2017, a law in line with the Paris Principles regulating the activities of the Ombudsman had been adopted.  The Ombudsman conducted inspection activities electronically through a mandatory reporting system.  Two hundred and thirty reports of offenses had been reported, and 149 businesses reprimanded.  Charges had been brought against over 2,000 individuals, and 10 million dollars had been restored.  The Ombudsman had developed nine acts to improve legal procedures, and over 50 acts to provide support for small businesses.  As a result of this support, over 500 business entities affected by the pandemic had resumed activities.

In line with the Paris Principles, the Parliament Ombudsman carried out its duties independent of the Parliament, and had made a submission for membership with the global alliance.  Over 18,000 complaints had been received, including 3,000 complaints related to economic and social rights.  Social welfare was paid to citizens, and support was also provided to regional groups.

Non-discrimination was enshrined in over 80 laws, and a law preventing the discrimination of disabled persons had also been drafted.  Uzbekistan had regularly participated in conferences on business rights.  The State was also considering ratifying the Optional Protocol of the Covenant.

On refugees, there were only eight Afghan refugees in the country compared to 8,000 20 years ago.  A body had also been established to protect the human rights of refugees.

Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert sought clarification regarding means of complaints of victims of business operations.  What measures were in place to protect victims of harmful business activities, and was there a body in place with which individuals could file complaints?

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