Not Free
PR Political Rights 2 40
CL Civil Liberties 10 60
Last Year's Score & Status
11 100 Not Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

While reforms adopted since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took office in 2016 have led to improvements on some issues, Uzbekistan remains an authoritarian state with few signs of democratization. No opposition parties operate legally. The legislature and judiciary effectively serve as instruments of the executive branch, which initiates reforms by decree, and the media are still tightly controlled by the authorities. Reports of torture and other ill-treatment persist, although highly publicized cases of abuse have resulted in dismissals and prosecutions for some officials, and small-scale corruption has been meaningfully reduced.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • Proposed constitutional reforms released for public feedback in June included amendments that would extend the presidential term of office from five years to seven years; if adopted, the reforms would also allow President Mirziyoyev to serve two additional terms in office. The reforms had not been adopted by year’s end.
  • The wide-ranging constitutional reforms proposed in June also contained draft amendments that would alter the legal and political status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan, including by annulling its right to secede based on a referendum. The proposed amendments concerning the status of Karakalpakstan sparked protests in the region, and Mirziyoyev promised to withdraw them in July.
  • In early July, mass protests against the draft constitutional amendments erupted in Karakalpakstan, triggering a violent government crackdown in the region; at least 21 people were killed, and hundreds more were injured. Trials for some of the more than 500 people arrested during and after the protests began in late November, and remained ongoing at year’s end.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

The president, who holds most executive power, is directly elected for up to two five-year terms. Longtime prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev was named acting president through an irregular parliamentary process in 2016, after Islam Karimov, who had held the presidency since Uzbekistan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, suffered a stroke and died. The constitution called for the Senate chairman to serve as acting president, but the chairman declined the post. Mirziyoyev won a special presidential election at the end of 2016, taking a reported 88.6 percent of the vote and defeating nominal challengers whose parties in some cases openly campaigned for the incumbent.

Mirziyoyev was reelected in the October 2021 presidential elections with 80.1 percent of the vote. Though five candidates participated, the election was not competitive, and candidates avoided challenging or criticizing Mirziyoyev. Only registered parties may nominate candidates, and the parties of two individuals who intended to run were denied registration, preventing any opposition or independent candidates from contesting the election.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission found the 2021 presidential elections to be neither fair nor free, noting a lack of meaningful engagement among candidates and an absence of transparent electoral procedures. OSCE observers also reported significant irregularities during the campaign and on election day, including ballot box stuffing in many polling stations, among other things.

Wide-ranging constitutional reforms, including many that would strengthen the powers of the president, were proposed by the government and released for public feedback in June 2022. The proposed amendments include provisions that would extend presidential terms from five years to seven years. If adopted, the reforms would also allow President Mirziyoyev to serve two additional terms in office. The reforms had not been approved as of year’s end.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

Uzbekistan has a bicameral legislature. The lower house is composed of 150 seats, with members directly elected in individual constituencies. The 100-member upper house, or Senate, includes 84 members who are elected by regional councils and 16 who are appointed by the president. All members of the parliament serve five-year terms.

The December 2019 lower house elections offered voters no meaningful choice, as all participating parties supported the government. The final results that followed January 2020 runoffs in 25 districts closely mirrored those from the previous lower house elections. The president’s party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (O’zLiDeP), maintained the largest share with 53 of 150 seats. Milliy Tiklanish (National Revival) won 36, the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party won 24, and the People’s Democratic Party (XDP) won 22. The Ecological Party of Uzbekistan, which directly competed for the first time after previously having its seats automatically allocated, won the same total of 15 delegates that it had been granted in the previous parliament. OSCE election monitors noted numerous irregularities, including procedural violations, the use of multiple ballots by voters, and ballot-box stuffing.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 1.001 4.004

The electoral laws and framework are implemented in ways that offer no opportunities for independent political actors or parties to participate in elections at any level. Election management bodies are closely controlled by the government.

Mirziyoyev has presided over some electoral reforms during his tenure. One set of reforms enacted in 2019 ended indirect representation for the Ecological Party, removed voting restrictions on those with past criminal convictions, and allowed voters to add their names to more than one party roll; these lists are required for political parties to participate in elections.

In June 2022, the government proposed numerous constitutional reforms, including amendments that would drastically alter the existing legal and political status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan. The draft amendments included provisions that would downgrade Karakalpakstan’s autonomous status, eliminating language identifying the republic as “sovereign” and removing its right to secede on the basis of a referendum. Mirziyoyev promised to withdraw the amendments that would have changed Karakalpakstan’s status in early July following mass protests in the region.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 0.000 4.004

Only five political parties are registered—O’zLiDep, the XDP, Adolat, Milliy Tiklanish, and the Ecological Party. They engage in mild criticism of one another and occasionally of government ministers, but all are effectively progovernment. Two opposition parties, the Erk Democratic Party and the Truth and Development Party, operate unofficially, having been repeatedly denied registration.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 0.000 4.004

No genuine opposition parties operate legally. Unregistered opposition groups function primarily in exile. Domestic supporters or family members of exiled opposition figures have been persecuted, and they are barred from participating in elections.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 0.000 4.004

Regional alliances of political elites hold the levers of government at all levels, creating economic oligarchies and patronage networks that stifle political competition. There is some intra-elite competition, but without the patronage of the established networks, political and economic advancement is all but impossible.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 0.000 4.004

No registered party represents the specific interests of ethnic or religious minority groups, and no other parties or actors have the opportunity to achieve political representation. Women formally enjoy equal political rights, but are unable to organize independently to advance their political interests in practice, and remain underrepresented in leadership positions.

A component of the electoral reform package enacted in 2019 required 30 percent of legislative candidates to be women. Women now hold approximately 33 percent of the seats in the lower house and 24 percent of the seats in the Senate. One woman, a member of the XDP, ran for president in 2021, taking 6.6 percent of the vote.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 0.000 4.004

The country’s leadership is not freely elected, and the legislature serves as a rubber stamp for the executive branch.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 0.000 4.004

Corruption is pervasive. Graft and bribery among low- and mid-level officials remain common and are at times conducted overtly and without subterfuge. However, petty corruption among traffic police and officials granting identification documents and registrations has been notably reduced in recent years by pilot programs that introduced video surveillance and traffic cameras.

President Mirziyoyev has overseen an ongoing purge of the notoriously corrupt security and law enforcement services. Analysts contend that the purge is largely meant to neutralize security officials from the Karimov era and shift power to the president’s personal security service and the reformed National Guard, both of which are overseen by Mirziyoyev’s family members.

In September and October 2022, the Mirziyoyev administration launched a shakeup of more recent appointees as well, removing the governors and mayors of 14 districts and cities in a 10-day period, including the mayor of Termez, Isroil Khudoiberdiyev. Khudoiberdiyev, two of his deputies, and four other officials were arrested in October on charges of embezzlement.

In recent years, the government has pursued a broad program of privatization of state assets. According to a 2021 report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a number of formerly state-owned assets have been sold to the family members of high-ranking government officials, sometimes at suspiciously low prices, leading to accusations of nepotism and corruption.

Media discussion of corrupt practices has cautiously expanded since Karimov’s death, but in some cases the journalists and commentators involved have come under pressure.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 1.001 4.004

Government operations remain mostly opaque, but one of Mirziyoyev’s first acts as president in late 2016 was the creation of new online mechanisms that offered citizens the opportunity to file complaints, report problems, and request services. The initial program was overwhelmingly popular and was quickly expanded to all ministries and local government offices, requiring local officials to interact with citizens and demonstrate responsiveness. The innovations contributed to a cultural change in governance, though they frequently encountered resistance at the local level.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 1.001 4.004

Despite constitutional guarantees, press freedom remains severely restricted. The state controls major media outlets and related facilities, and independent outlets were mostly shuttered or blocked under Karimov. However, domestic media, including news websites and live television programs, now cautiously discuss social problems and criticize local officials, reflecting a slight reduction in media repression since Mirziyoyev took power. Some independent news sources have emerged and are not subject to overt censorship, though most outlets still avoid openly criticizing Mirziyoyev and the government. Under Mirziyoyev, a number of journalists have been released from prison, and 2018 marked the first year in two decades that no journalists were imprisoned.

The presence of independent international outlets is limited; several foreign reporters have been granted press passes since 2017, although other journalists working for outlets like RFE/RL have been denied entry. Access to news and information via popular social media sites like YouTube and Facebook has become more reliable in recent years despite the authorities’ sporadic blocking of such platforms.

Independent journalists are frequently harassed or interrogated by the security services for their coverage of topics that are deemed to be sensitive by the authorities. In 2022, numerous journalists reporting on the Russian military invasion of Ukraine were warned by the state security services to “exercise restraint” in their coverage of the war, and some were reportedly ordered to delete their work.

Journalists continue to face criminal penalties for a variety of possible offenses related to their work. In 2020, the president signed legal amendments that eliminated prison terms for libel and insult, but compulsory labor and other penalties remained in place, and dissemination of false information was added to the criminal and administrative codes. In February 2022, blogger Sobirjon Babaniyazov was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for purportedly insulting President Mirziyoyev on social media. In January, blogger Miraziz Bazarov, who has reported on government corruption and advocated for LGBT+ rights, was sentenced to three years of house arrest on slander charges for allegedly making comments insulting teachers and progovernment bloggers on social media. Journalists were not granted access to the courtroom during his trial.

In June and July 2022, during the public hearing period on the proposed constitutional amendments on Karakalpakstan and the protests that followed, prominent ethnic Karakalpak bloggers and journalists who published criticism of the proposed amendments were arrested by local authorities; at least one, Kural Rametov, was reportedly tortured while in custody.

The state has also continued to occasionally use the Soviet-era practice of forced psychiatric hospitalization against journalists.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 1.001 4.004

The government permits the existence of approved Muslim, Jewish, and Christian denominations, but treats unregistered religious activity as a criminal offense. Suspected members of banned Muslim organizations and their relatives have faced arrest, interrogation, and torture. Arrested believers are frequently accused of founding previously unknown religious organizations, a charge that carries high penalties. In most cases, little evidence of the existence of such organizations is presented at the closed trials. Since Mirziyoyev became president in 2016, government regulations curtailing religious freedom have lessened, though significant restrictions remain in place as of 2022.

In 2021, Mirziyoyev signed new amendments to the law on religious freedom, relaxing a controversial prohibition on wearing religious clothing in public, including in state and educational institutions, as well as simplifying the registration requirements for religious organizations. However, human rights activists and international monitors have noted that the reforms do not fundamentally change the state’s authority to license religious organizations, censor religious literature, and prosecute anyone participating in religious activities or teaching outside state-approved forums. While mandatory dress codes that effectively prohibit the wearing of religious attire in public schools remain in place, as of the end of 2022 these rules are reportedly no longer being enforced in practice.

Despite the expansion of some religious freedoms, security services have continued to use broadly defined terrorism and slander legislation to target religious individuals and activists. In January 2022, Muslim blogger Fazilhoja Arifhojaev was convicted of “threatening public security and public order” and sentenced to more than seven years in prison for criticizing the government’s religious policies on social media. His sentence was upheld on appeal in March.

Score Change: The score improved from 0 to 1 because recent legal amendments have relaxed prohibitions on religious expression, including the ability to wear religious clothing in public.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 1.001 4.004

The government has long limited academic freedom, in part by controlling contacts between universities or scholars and foreign entities. Universities in Uzbekistan have slowly expanded their cooperation with foreign counterparts since 2016.

Texts that glorify former president Karimov are no longer required reading at universities.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 1.001 4.004

The freedoms of personal expression and private discussion have long been limited by mahalla committees—traditional neighborhood organizations that the government transformed into an official system for public surveillance and control. The government also engages in extensive surveillance of electronic communications.

Through its various reforms since 2016, the Mirziyoyev administration has signaled a greater tolerance for public criticism, modestly improving the climate for expression of personal views on sensitive topics. However, the 2020 legal amendments that criminalized dissemination of false information, including about COVID-19, indicated ongoing pressure to set limits on public debate.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 0.000 4.004

Despite constitutional provisions for freedom of assembly, authorities severely restrict this right in practice, breaking up virtually all unsanctioned gatherings and detaining participants.

Mass protests erupted in Karakalpakstan in late June and early July 2022 after the government published draft constitutional amendments that would have, if adopted, downgraded the republic’s autonomous status. In response to the protests, Uzbekistan’s security forces launched an extremely violent crackdown, using lethal force against mostly peaceful protesters; the government also temporarily imposed a state of emergency, enacted martial law, and restricted mobile network coverage and internet access in the region. At least 21 people were killed and more than 270 were injured during the protests, including members of the security forces. More than 500 people, including journalists and opposition activists, were arrested during and after the protests. Trials against some of those charged with crimes related to the protests began in November, and were ongoing at year’s end.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 1.001 4.004

Unregistered NGOs have faced severe repression and harassment. Though the government claims that many NGOs operate in Uzbekistan, most are state-sponsored organizations; excessive registration requirements prevent independent NGOs from legally operating, and allow authorities to interfere in the work of human rights organizations.

A new organization designed to oversee the activities of registered NGOs, the Center for the Development of Civil Society (CDCS), was formed in 2019.

In 2021, Mirziyoyev issued a decree approving the Concept on Development of Civil Society in 2021–2025, a proposal introducing measures that would provide for partnerships between NGOs and the government. In June 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers issued a decree that increases state oversight of organizations that receive international funding, including by requiring government approval of such funds.

The government frequently and arbitrarily denies registration requests made by both local and international NGOs that engage in human rights-related work.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 0.000 4.004

The Federation of Trade Unions is controlled by the state, and no genuinely independent union structures exist. Organized strikes are extremely rare.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 0.000 4.004

The judiciary remains subservient to the president. In 2017, however, a number of judicial reforms were enacted through constitutional and legislative amendments, establishing specific terms in office for judges and creating a Supreme Judicial Council (OSK) to oversee appointments and disciplinary action, among other changes. The council, whose chairperson is approved by the Senate on the president’s recommendation, replaced a commission that was directly subordinate to the president.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 0.000 4.004

Due process guarantees are extremely weak. Law enforcement authorities have routinely justified the arrest of suspected religious extremists or political opponents by planting contraband, filing dubious charges of financial wrongdoing, or inventing witness testimony. The Lawyers’ Chamber, a regulatory body with compulsory membership, serves as a vehicle for state control over the legal profession. The judicial reforms adopted in 2017 gave judges rather than prosecutors the authority to approve certain investigative steps, such as exhumations and some forms of surveillance. In 2020, a presidential decree introduced an option for defendants to enter plea bargains for a range of offenses and included provisions to improve detainees’ access to lawyers.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

A 2016 law on police prohibits torture, and a 2017 presidential decree that bars courts from using evidence obtained through torture took effect in 2018. In both 2020 and 2021, Mirziyoyev issued additional decrees introducing mechanisms to eliminate the use of torture against detainees. Despite the reforms, credible reports of physical abuse against detainees continued throughout 2022.

In 2020, Andijon businessman Alijon Abdukarimov died following severe torture during police interrogation, sparking widespread public outrage. The prosecutor general’s office brought charges against the officers implicated in the case, and six officers received sentences ranging from one to 10 years in prison. The prosecutor general’s office publicized data on torture investigations for the first time in June 2020, admitting that of 757 cases investigated in three years, only 33 had led to prosecution. The human rights ombudsman acknowledged the same month that torture remained a serious problem, and the Interior Ministry announced that video cameras would be installed in police interrogation facilities across the country.

International human rights organizations have condemned the government’s crackdown on protests in Karakalpakstan in July 2022—which saw security forces use extreme and sometimes lethal force to disperse mostly peaceful protesters—as excessive and unjustifiable. Though the government formed a commission to investigate human rights violations during the protests in mid-July, as of December it had not shared any findings.

Prisons suffer from severe overcrowding and shortages of food and medicine. As with detained suspects, prison inmates—particularly those sentenced for their religious beliefs—are often subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 0.000 4.004

Although racial and ethnic discrimination are prohibited by law, the belief that senior positions in government and business are reserved for ethnic Uzbeks is widespread. Women’s educational and professional prospects are limited by discriminatory cultural and religious norms. Women are also barred from certain jobs under the labor code.

Sex between men is punishable with up to three years in prison. The law does not protect LGBT+ people from discrimination, and social taboos deter the discussion of LGBT+ issues.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 1.001 4.004

Permission is required to move to a new city, and bribes are commonly paid to obtain the necessary documents. Bribes are also frequently required to gain entrance to and advance in universities. The Mirziyoyev administration abolished exit visas in 2019, ending a system that was used to proscribe travel beyond other member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 1.001 4.004

Widespread corruption and extensive state control over the economy limit private business opportunities and make property rights tenuous in practice.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

While the law generally grants men and women equal rights in matters such as marriage and divorce, women often face de facto disadvantages. Extralegal child marriage is reportedly practiced in some areas. Victims of domestic violence are discouraged from pressing charges against perpetrators, who rarely face prosecution. Rape is also seldom reported or prosecuted, and spousal rape is not explicitly criminalized.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

Economic exploitation remains a serious domestic problem, as does the trafficking of men and women abroad for forced labor and sex work. A 2009 law imposed stronger penalties for child labor, and in 2012 Mirziyoyev, then the prime minister, pledged to end the practice completely. In 2017, the president issued a decree to formally ban forced agricultural labor by students, health workers, and teachers. During the subsequent cotton harvests, the government increased incentives for voluntary labor and granted access to international observers. In 2018, the International Labor Organization (ILO) noted that 93 percent of cotton workers were voluntarily employed for that year’s harvest, while child labor was not an issue.

In 2020, President Mirziyoyev signed a decree to fully end the state quota system for cotton that had motivated local officials to require forced labor. Despite these improvements, some evidence of forced labor has continued to be reported in recent years, and prosecutions of suspected traffickers remain rare.

On Uzbekistan

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

See More
  • Global Freedom Score

    12 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    27 100 not free