Uzbekistan constitutional reform briefing document
The Constitution of Uzbekistan was originally ratified in 1992, one year after the country became an independent state. Until now, almost all of the previous constitutional amendments related to governmental and parliamentary matters.
However, as part of the comprehensive reform programme led by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a new set of constitutional reforms has been prepared.
Under the direction of Uzbekistan’s Constitutional Reform Commission, an initial draft constitution was published in June 2022, which was followed by a public consultation period. Various parliamentary committees, overseen by the commission, subsequently reviewed citizens’ feedback before making changes.
If approved by the people, the proposed reforms will become the most important additions and updates to Uzbekistan’s Constitution in over three decades.
These reforms would establish Uzbekistan as a sovereign, democratic, legal, social and secular state with a republican form of government.
While some of the proposed changes cover economic, judicial and governmental matters, the top priority of the reform process involves strengthening the guarantees that protect the rights and freedoms of all citizens from birth, in addition to ensuring a decent life for everyone.
There are 155 articles in the new Constitution, compared with 128 in the current document. The number of norms increases to 434 from 275. Some 65% of the Constitution has been changed. The number of provisions regarding human rights and freedoms increases 3.5 times.
An overview of the main reforms
A) Strengthening the protection of human rights
Constitutional guarantees of human and civil rights and freedoms are strengthened.
Key human rights reforms cover the following areas:
1) Personal rights
The constitutional amendments would:
· Guarantee the presumption of innocence for all suspects and legal defendants
· Enable them to exercise the right to remain silent (the first half seemed redundant)
· Protect the right of citizens not to testify against themselves or family members
· Prevent a person being found guilty or punished, if their confession is the only evidence brought against them
· Ensure a person cannot be detained for longer than 48 hours without a court ruling
Furthermore, citizens and legal entities would have a new right to appeal directly to the Constitutional Court concerning a ruling made against them in a lower court, once all other legal remedies have been exhausted.
Based on the fact that the right to life is an inalienable right of every person, the new Constitution would confirm that the death penalty is prohibited in Uzbekistan.
2) Personal data safeguards
Under the new Constitution, everyone would have rights to protect their personal data, the power to correct false information about them, and the ability to destroy illegally obtained data.
3) Housing rights
Under the new Constitution, all citizens would have the right to housing. No one would be deprived of their home except by the imposition of a court order. In such instances, the owner would be compensated for the value of their property and related losses incurred by them.
4) Employment rights
Under the new Constitution, everyone will have the right to employment, under working conditions that meet health and safety requirements. All citizens will be fairly remunerated for their work, without falling below the national minimum wage.
The state will protect people from the effects of unemployment. It will also organise vocational training programmes for citizens.
Any form of labour that poses a threat to the health, safety or educational development of children will be prohibited.
5) Access to healthcare
Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan would have the right to а guaranteed level of medical care paid for by the state.
6) Access to education
The state would guarantee the development of a continuous education system. This would include an increased provision of nursery and pre-school facilities, together with free secondary education and vocational education. All secondary education would be compulsory.
Citizens would be able to enroll on higher education courses paid for by the state. Higher education institutions would have the right to academic freedom, self-governance, freedom of research and teaching in accordance with the law.
7) Protecting religious freedom and freedom of expression
The state would guarantee freedom of activity for all religious organisations operating in accordance with Uzbekistan’s laws.
The state would also guarantee freedom of activity for the media, covering their rights to seek, receive, use and disseminate information.
8) Protect the rights of disadvantaged groups
The state would protect the rights of the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. It would take measures aimed at improving citizens’ quality of life, by providing for their financial needs and creating opportunities for their participation in society.
Under the new Constitution, the state would ensure that people with disabilities would have full access to employment and educational opportunities, as well as social, economic and cultural services.
9) Protecting the environment
The Constitution would give citizens greater control over urban planning in order to protect their environmental rights.
Sustainable development principles would be prioritised, in order to improve, restore and protect the environment. The state would also take measures to protect and restore the ecological system of the Aral Sea region.
B) Supporting Uzbekistan’s growing economy
Under the new Constitution, the state would be required to:
· Provide a favourable investment and business climate
· Enable entrepreneurs to undertake independently any business activities in accordance with national laws
· Guarantee the free movement of goods, services, labour and financial resources across the whole of Uzbekistan
In addition, the Cabinet of Ministers would introduce new measures to ensure openness and transparency, promote greater efficiency and reduce corruption in executive authorities; and improve the quality and accessibility of public services.
C) Uzbekistan’s legislature, government and judiciary
The constitutional reforms would create a clearer separation of powers between branches of state government.
The Legislative Chamber’s powers would be strengthened. It would primarily focus on legislative matters, in addition to approving prime ministerial candidates and reviewing reports made by members of the Cabinet of Ministers.
The activities of the Senate would focus on issues of regional importance, the development of local representative bodies, and the formation of the highest bodies of state power, including the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Council.
If in the current Constitution 5 powers are included as the exclusive powers of the Legislative Chamber, the draft amendments raise this number to 12. The number of exclusive powers of the Senate increases to 18 from 14.
The number of senators would be reduced from 100 to 65. Four senators would be elected from each of Uzbekistan’s 14 regions, with a further nine appointed by the President. (Now 6 senators are elected in each region, 16 are appointed by the President).
The Senate’s control over law enforcement and special services agencies is being strengthened. When it comes to the Prosecutor-General and the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber, the President can make his/her nominations but cannot officially appoint them without the approval of the Senate. As for the Chairman of the State Security Service, the President can only appoint him/her after consultations with the Senate. (Under the current constitution the Senate approves the decrees of the President on appointment of the Prosecutor-General, the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber and the Chairman of the State Security Service).
In addition, the heads of the anti-corruption and anti-monopoly agencies are to be elected by the Senate (currently the President appoints them). The control powers of the chambers of the Oliy Majlis are to be expanded, including consolidation of the ability to conduct a parliamentary investigation.
Previously, the Prime Ministerial candidate was submitted to the President by the party with the largest number of seats in the parliament. That is now abolished and the appointment of the Prime Minister becomes dependent upon approval of the Legislative Chamber. Here the candidacy of the Prime Minister is submitted by the President after consultations with all factions of political parties represented in the lower house.
After hearing a report by a member of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Legislative Chamber has the right to propose his or her dismissal by the President.
Presidential term limits will be extended from five to seven years, so that the comprehensive changes to the country’s political culture being put to referendum will enjoy continuity of leadership. Greater stability at the executive level will allow more effective oversight of the implementation of the approved reforms.
The powers and functions of the Government and its responsibilities have been expanded for ensuring sustainable economic growth, macroeconomic stability, creating a favorable investment climate, reducing poverty, creating decent living conditions for the population, protecting the environment, preserving natural wealth, etc.
Concerning legal government, the Constitution would clearly define the powers of khokims in regions, districts and cities for the first time. These powers would include the implementation of measures aimed at ensuring the economic, social, cultural and environmental development of individual areas, as well as the formation and execution of local budgets.
A process of judicial reforms has been underway since 2017. Amongst other important initiatives, these reforms resulted in the creation of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Council - an independent body of the judiciary that ensures the formation of the judiciary.
The proposed constitutional reforms go even further, with the introduction of a new procedure for electing judges to the Constitutional Court. All judges would serve a single 10-year term without the right to re-election. It is further established in the new Constitution that judges are inviolable and cannot be sued or penalized for their decisions in any particular case.
In addition, a new legislative initiative would be introduced, enabling proposals which have the support of 100,000 citizens to be presented to parliament.
On 9-10 March, the revised draft Constitution, taking into account popular feedback from the national dialogue process, was considered in the Legislative Chamber and was approved for submission to a referendum on April 30.
The Senate on March 14 confirmed this decision and approved the draft for submission to the 30 April referendum.
On Monday (March 13), the Constitutional Court of Uzbekistan ruled that the decision by the Legislative Chamber to hold a referendum was in constitutional compliance.
Please visit https://meningkonstitutsiyam.uz for more details about Uzbekistan’s proposed constitutional reforms.