|DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage||2.38 100|
|DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score||1.14 7|
The year 2019 saw great changes in Uzbekistan, which the Economist named as the country that had “improved the most” during the year.1 The Uzbek government completely eliminated the longstanding practice of using child labor in the country’s cotton fields, according to Human Rights Watch.2 The parliament passed two important laws on women’s rights3 and is adopting a strong stance on the issue of gender equality. These are some of the dramatic social, economic, and political changes that society witnessed over the last three years, since the death of the dictator Islam Karimov in 2016. His successor, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is still positioning himself as a reformer, promising liberalization of the economy and openness to the world. General reforms are indeed evident, but deeper structural changes that would enshrine a democratic system rather than a personalized power vertical are still a long way off.
President Mirziyoyev has delivered on his promises to liberalize the economy and maintain closer relationships with neighboring countries. However, these reforms have had certain downsides. The economic reforms are contributing to an emerging oligarchic system in Uzbekistan, which poses a considerable threat to social stability and equality. Liberalization, including privatization, in a context that lacks regulatory transparency and a developed civil society risks bringing about social tensions, and, as a consequence, a tightening of government screws. Key foreign policy decisions, such as enlisting Russian help to build a nuclear power plant, have been made behind closed doors among elite circles. Uzbekistan has committed to ambitious construction projects inside the country, and given the opaque economic and political environment, the long-term negative effects of these projects are unknown.
One goal that has already been achieved and can actually influence the course of events in the country is the expansion of the freedom of speech. Free expression by the wider public on issues of popular concern has helped to call out bureaucratic abuses and create accountability. However, there are still no institutionalized mechanisms for expressing the will of the civil sector regarding government decisions.
The government remains firmly in the hands of President Mirziyoyev and his allies. In 2019, he took further steps to consolidate his control over state apparatuses, purging rivals and installing family members in high-level positions. Uzbekistan held parliamentary elections in December, which were more dynamic than previous elections despite the continued absence of opposition political parties. Public engagement in the electoral process continues to be low, while fraud remains endemic.
Although authorities officially welcome nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the civil sector remains under strict government supervision in practice. Efforts to make the registration process easier for groups did not translate into more independent NGOs in 2019. The media are also tightly controlled by the authorities. However, the government unblocked a number of new independent portals. A more permissive environment prevails on social media networks, which continued to grow during the year.
Local democratic government remains flawed. Uzbekistan’s centrally appointed governors carried out a spate of unlawful demolitions in 2019 to make room for development projects, eliciting rare public protests. A number of formal improvements were made to the justice system during the year, and the notorious Jaslyk prison was closed, but informal abusive practices like torture and forced confessions persist. The country recorded mixed progress in the fight against corruption in 2019. The government has taken effective measures to curb petty corruption among state functionaries, but grand corruption—a problem compounded by the emergence of oligarchs—is often ignored.
- 1. “Which nation improved the most in 2019?,” The Economist, 21 December 2019, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/12/21/which-nation-improved-the-…
- 2. “HRW about eradication of child labor that had been practiced on the cotton fields,” Uzbek Review, 7 November 2019, https://uzbek.review/hrw-about-eradication-of-child-labor-that-had-been…
- 3. See the Law “On guarantees of equal rights and opportunities for women and men” and the Law “On protecting women from harassment and violence”
|Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches.||1.001 7.007|
- The year 2019 brought significant changes to Uzbekistan’s political, economic, and social life. These developments have made the country more open but have also reined in hopes of near-term democratization. During the year, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev significantly strengthened his own authoritarian grip on power, fending off all potential political opponents. At the same time, he initiated and issued a range of decrees on democratization, yet these remain a formality in the absence of real governmental checks and balances. In practice, President Mirziyoyev’s power remains undisputed by other branches of the state or by individual political opponents.
- Former state security service chief Ikhtiyor Abdullayev and former general prosecutor Otabek Murodov were put on trial in 2019, delivering a final blow to President Mirziyoyev’s potential rivals while also diminishing the power of the secret services that had been the bulwark of his predecessor’s system. Abdullayev was sentenced to 18 years in prison for organizing a criminal group, corruption, and other charges,1 while Murodov received a 5-year suspended sentence for corruption in early 2020.2 Allegedly, Abdullayev bugged telephone conversations among Mirziyoyev’s family members.3 At least 20 high- and middle-ranking officials were sentenced to various years of imprisonment alongside Abdullayev in 2019.4
- President Mirziyoyev now relies mostly on the President’s Security Service to maintain his personal grip on power. His son-in-law, Otabek Umarov, is deputy head of the service.5 Umarov also holds several other official posts, including leadership roles in sports associations.6 He has a public presence on social media and participates in his father-in-law’s official and unofficial state visits, as well as meetings with foreign investors.
- Shakhnoza Mirziyoyeva, the president’s daughter married to Umarov, was named to a top position in the Ministry of Preschool Education in 2019,7 while her elder sister, Saida Mirziyoyeva, was appointed deputy director of the Agency of Information and Mass Communications (AIMC).8 Saida’s work in that role is considered one of the key factors in strengthening freedom of speech in Uzbekistan (see “Independent Media”).
- In 2018–19, President Mirziyoyev finalized the institutionalization of his power by appointing loyal persons to key security posts and offsetting the Ministry of Internal Affairs by building up the National Guard of Uzbekistan (NGU). The NGU was removed from the remit of the Armed Forces of Uzbekistan,9 and its ranks swelled from 1,000 to several thousand personnel.10 The NGU now has the authority to participate in the fight against terrorism, carry out investigations, initiate criminal cases, conduct administrative proceedings, and participate in enforcing public order and security, among other competences.11 The rather expansive competencies granted to the NGU make it a militarized law enforcement body that, even in peacetime, may violate human rights.
- The lawmaking function of the Uzbek parliament, the Oliy Majlis (Supreme Assembly), remains embryonic, and the executive branch can effectively impose its will on the legislature.12 Prior to the December 2019 parliamentary elections (see “Electoral Process”), only 102 of the assembly’s 150 seats were filled, as 42 parliamentarians had been appointed to positions in the executive branch.13
- President Mirziyoyev continues to pose as a reformer and a guarantor of openness and democratic transformation. He has condemned individual violations of citizens’ rights when they are publicly discussed on social media like Facebook and Telegram and in mass media. However, the episodic character of these condemnations proves that the Uzbek government is only selectively responsive to its citizens.
- 1. “Uzbekistan: Former security services chief sentenced to 18 years in prison,” Eurasianet, 27 September 2019, https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-former-security-services-chief-senten…
- 2. “Uzbekistan: Ex-General Prosecutor gets five years of limited freedom,” Eurasianet, 25 February 2020, https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-ex-general-prosecutor-gets-five-years…
- 3. “Бывший глава спецслужб Узбекистана приговорен к 18 годам тюрьмы,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 28 September 2019, https://www.svoboda.org/a/30188524.html
- 4. “Военный суд приговорил экс-главу СГБ к 18 годам заключения,” Gazeta.uz, 27 September 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/09/27/court-decision/
- 5. Andy Heil, “Nonstop Nepotism: Uzbek President's Son-In-Law Named MMA Chief In Latest Sign Of Creeping Family Control,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 13 November 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-umarov-nepotism-mirziyoev-son-in-law…
- 6. “Зять президента Узбекистана Отабек Умаров получил новую должность,” Current Time, 11 November 2019, https://www.currenttime.tv/a/umarov-mirzieev-uzbekistan-sport/30264426…
- 7. “Шахноза Мирзиёева возглавила новое управление в МДО,” Gazeta.uz, 5 August 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/08/05/mdo/
- 8. “Uzbek President's Daughter Given Deputy Job In State Media Agency,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 April 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbek-president-s-daughter-given-deputy-job-in-…
- 9. “Что теперь имеют право делать сотрудники Нацгвардии Узбекистана,” Sputnik, 31 October 2019, https://uz.sputniknews.ru/politics/20191031/12711952/Chto-teper-imeyut-…
- 10. Bruce Pannier, “Восхождение Национальной гвардии Узбекистана,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 31 August 2019, https://rus.azattyq.org/a/uzbekistan-the-rise-of-the-national-guard/301…
- 11. “Закон о Нацгвардии одобрен сенаторами,” Gazeta.uz, 14 December 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/12/14/security/
- 12. Ikromjon Tukhtasunov, “ELECTIONS-2019: CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR UZBEKISTAN,” Uzbek Review, 15 November 2019, https://medium.com/@uzbekreview2019/elections-2019-challenges-ahead-for…
- 13. “International Election Observation Mission: Republic of Uzbekistan –Parliamentary Elections, 22 December 2019: Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions,” Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/uzbekistan/442888?download=true
|Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process.||1.001 7.007|
- On December 22, 2019, Uzbekistan held parliamentary elections for the first time since the end of the dictatorship of Islam Karimov, who ruled the country for over a quarter century until his death in 2016. The electoral process in Uzbekistan proved to be more open and dynamic than in previous years, but it was still lacking in freedom and adequate organization. According to the Diplomat’s managing editor Catherine Putz, the electoral environment was characterized by both tremendous excitement and extreme apathy on the part of voters.1
- The 2019 parliamentary elections were held under a new unified electoral code, adopted in March.2 Among the electoral code’s key changes are the removal of quotas for representatives of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan, which previously held five fixed seats in the lower chamber, and technical improvements in the electoral process.
- The preelection environment had an air of chaos, with inadequate information about parties and candidates, on one hand, and abundant discussion on social media and in mass media, on the other. Television debates with candidates and party leaders were held for the first time in which participants tried to answer tough questions from independent journalists, including foreign press.3 However, these conversations were “relatively dissociated with issues average Uzbeks arguably care most about,” according to one observer.4
- The runup to the elections was also marred by organizational imperfections, such as illegible and incorrect candidate biographies on party websites and incorrect addresses on ballot tickets.
- The ideologies of the political parties competing for votes hardly differed from one another, while the positions of party leaders on key issues, such as joining the Eurasian Economic Union or the construction of nuclear power plants, were astonishingly similar.5 True opposition political parties are not permitted to exist in Uzbekistan.6 Meanwhile, independent candidates were not allowed to participate in the elections by law. Consequently, the elections did not “demonstrate genuine competition,” according to monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).7
- Another fundamental problem was public apathy. The long-running fear generated by the iron fist of the late president Karimov had left the population without any hope for truly democratic changes. Although turnout in the parliamentary elections was officially 71.1 percent,8 this figure was the result of numerous cases of electoral fraud, including ballot stuffing, as well as other electoral violations such as voter intimidation.
- During the voting, electoral fraud was documented on camera and shared on social media platforms.9 Packs of blank ballots were filled out by Central Election Commission volunteers, while vote counts were made with evident violations in a number of polling stations.10 Criminal proceedings were filed in a few of these instances. This was a key change from previous parliamentary elections, as increased public scrutiny prompted immediate responses from law enforcement bodies to cases of electoral fraud. However, it remains to be seen whether the reaction of authorities was only for show or will actually contribute to reforming the conduct of elections in Uzbekistan.
- In early January 2020, runoff elections were held in 25 districts (out of 150) where no candidate received more than half of the votes in the first round. The final results were no surprise: political parties in the Oliy Majlis remained in roughly the same alignment, and candidates proposed for the Cabinet of Ministers included many familiar faces.11
- 1. Catherine Putz, “Uzbekistan Gears Up For Parliamentary Elections Like Never Before,” The Diplomat, 21 December 2019, https://thediplomat.com/2019/12/uzbekistan-gears-up-for-parliamentary-e…
- 2. “Elections in Uzbekistan: 2019 Parliamentary Elections: Frequently Asked Questions,” International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 19 December 2019, https://www.ifes.org/sites/default/files/ifes_faqs_elections_in_uzbekis…
- 3. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=603170220521035
- 4. Umida Hashimova, “Uzbekistan’s Parties Take the Stage to Debate,” The Diplomat, 20 November 2019, https://thediplomat.com/2019/11/uzbekistans-parties-take-the-stage-to-d…
- 5. Umida Hashimova, “Uzbekistan’s Parties Take the Stage to Debate,” The Diplomat, 20 November 2019, https://thediplomat.com/2019/11/uzbekistans-parties-take-the-stage-to-d…
- 6. “Uzbekistan holds a semi-serious election,” The Economist, 18 December 2019, https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/12/18/uzbekistan-holds-a-semi-serio…
- 7. “International Election Observation Mission: Republic of Uzbekistan –Parliamentary Elections, 22 December 2019: Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions,” Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/uzbekistan/442888?download=true
- 8. “Итоги выборов в Узбекистане: все партии попали в парламент,” EurAsia Daily, 23 December 2019, https://eadaily.com/ru/news/2019/12/23/itogi-vyborov-v-uzbekistane-vse-…
- 9. https://www.facebook.com/lily.nikolenko/posts/2647681255307435
- 10. “Зафиксированы первые нарушения на выборах,” Kun.uz, 22 December 2019, https://kun.uz/ru/news/2019/12/22/zafiksirovany-pervyye-narusheniya-na-…
- 11. “Депутаты одобрили кандидатов в члены правительства,” Gazeta.uz, 22 January 2020, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/01/22/cabinet/
|Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups.||1.251 7.007|
- In spite of the measures taken by President Mirziyoyev and other officials to facilitate the development of civil society, a number of informal barriers still remain for independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). According to activists, the government continues to block the registration and operation of NGOs working on sensitive issues, and human rights researcher Steve Swerdlow reports that no human rights organizations were registered in Uzbekistan between 2003 and 2019.1
- In 2018, Uzbekistan had 9,300 registered NGOs, including their regional branches, according to the Ministry of Justice.2 By early 2020, the ministry claimed that there were over 10,000 registered NGOs in the country.3 A 2018 analysis by the Independent Institute for Monitoring of the Formation of Civil Society (NIMFOGO) found that only about a third of NGOs in Uzbekistan are “self-initiated,” which is to say that a majority are so-called GONGOs, or government-organized nongovernmental organizations.4 The NIMFOGO is itself a GONGO.
- In 2019, the cost to register an NGO in Uzbekistan was reduced by presidential decree.5 This move followed the 2018 presidential decree “On measures to radically increase the role of civil society institutions in the process of democratic renewal of the country,” which pledged, among other things, to cut “excessive bureaucratic requirements and red tape” and change “outdated legal norms.”6 However, these reforms have not materialized. According to the independent Central Asian Bureau for Analytical Reporting (CABAR), “Excessive bureaucratic obstacles, lengthy registration process, language barriers, low legal literacy and lack of legal support, combined with unwritten rules of ‘expertise’ complicate the formation of a genuine civil society in Uzbekistan.”7 The Ministry of Justice addressed CABAR’s critique in early 2020,8 denying the existence of any informal directives to keep a strong grip on the NGO sector.
- GONGOs, which have access to government officials and funds, are the most powerful and active NGOs in Uzbekistan and are guided by the state. Interaction of NGOs with the private sector would provide civil society with an alternative source of support and financial stability, but unfortunately such cooperation remains at a low level.
- The 2018 presidential decree prompted the creation of an Advisory Council on the Development of Civil Society under President Mirziyoyev. This organization can be characterized as a GONGO, as it consists of high-ranking public officials. Meanwhile, as of October 2019, the NIMFOGO was being transformed into the Center for the Development of Civil Society, which will report to the Advisory Council.9 Together with the National Association of Non-Governmental Non-Profit Organizations, another GONGO, these organizations are the main pillars of the civil sector in Uzbekistan.
- In 2018, the NGO “Buyuk Kelajak” was formed to gather Uzbek expats who are accomplished professionals to create a long-term national development strategy. The organization has been rated a success: it now consists of hundreds of experts, and a number of its members who returned to Uzbekistan were appointed to public office. However, it has attracted controversy because it is funded by the International Chodiev Foundation, founded by Patokh Chodiev, a Kazakh-Belgian oligarch of Uzbek origin. Moreover, several of its members quit in 2019, amid a clash of interests within the organization.10
- Despite the more or less favorable legal basis for its development, civil society remains under strong control of the government. The state is reluctant to loosen its grip on independent NGOs and citizen movements, and grants only a certain amount of freedom to GONGOs. Today, the General Prosecutor’s Office is largely responsible for developing the civil sector, but this body has a long reputation of being the most repressive instrument of the regime.
- Mass movements and demonstrations are rare in Uzbekistan, as authorities tightly control the public square and have historically used violence to disperse unauthorized protests. However, protests do occur. In July 2019, a thousand people peacefully blocked a road in the Khorezm region to demand compensation after their houses were demolished (see “Local Democratic Governance”).11 And in November and December, sporadic protests over electricity and gas shortages occurred throughout the country.12
- 1. “Uzbekistan sparks hope with registration of NGOs,” Eurasianet, 11 March 2020, https://eurasianet.org/uzbekistan-sparks-hope-with-registration-of-ngos
- 2. “Негосударственные некоммерческие организации: глубокий анализ проблем, новый этап реформ и платформа для новых возможностей,” Kultura.uz, 13 May 2018, https://www.kultura.uz/view_2_r_11444.html
- 3. “Отказ в регистрации ННО: причины и следствия,” Gazeta.uz, 28 January 2020, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/01/28/mj/
- 4. Dilmurad Yusupov and Oybek Isakov, “Why is it Difficult to Open an NGO in Uzbekistan?,” CABAR, 14 January 2020, https://cabar.asia/en/why-is-it-difficult-to-open-an-ngo-in-uzbekistan/…
- 5. “В Узбекистане снизили стоимость регистрации ННО. Мирзиёев поручил разработать для них специальный кодекс,”Podrobno.uz, 5 October 2019, https://podrobno.uz/cat/obchestvo/v-uzbekistane-snizili-stoimost-regist…
- 6. Dilmurad Yusupov and Oybek Isakov, “Why is it Difficult to Open an NGO in Uzbekistan?,” CABAR, 14 January 2020, https://cabar.asia/en/why-is-it-difficult-to-open-an-ngo-in-uzbekistan/…
- 7. Dilmurad Yusupov and Oybek Isakov, “Why is it Difficult to Open an NGO in Uzbekistan?,” CABAR, 14 January 2020, https://cabar.asia/en/why-is-it-difficult-to-open-an-ngo-in-uzbekistan/…
- 8. “Отказ в регистрации ННО: причины и следствия,” Gazeta.uz, 28 January 2020, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/01/28/mj/
- 9. “Создается Центр развития гражданского общества,” Gazeta.uz, 31 October 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/10/31/civil-society/
- 10. “A group of ‘Buyuk Kelajak’ experts leaves the organization,” Kun.uz, 11 September 2019, https://kun.uz/en/news/2019/09/11/a-group-of-buyuk-kelajak-experts-leav…
- 11. Bruce Pannier, “In Uzbekistan, The Fraught Politics Of Building Demolitions,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 31 July 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbek-prime-minister-reacts-to-vehement-protest…
- 12. Farangis Najibullah, “ Power Crisis: Severe Energy Shortages Spark Rare Protests In Uzbekistan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 4 December 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/power-crisis-severe-energy-shortages-spark-rare…
|Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media.||1.251 7.007|
- Over the past few years, the media have developed the most vibrant sphere of Uzbek society. Efforts to expand media freedoms in 2019 were successful in a number of cases, yet also brought some disappointments. One success story was activism and blogging on social media, which is one of the few effective mechanisms in the country for raising awareness on key social, political, and economic issues. Public posts on Facebook and Telegram, in particular, have drawn attention to such issues as illegal demolitions, the felling of trees, and disappearances of ordinary citizens due to unlawful actions by law enforcement bodies. Disappointingly, social media activism and blogging have also revealed the continued presence of “untouchables”—certain powerful people or sensitive issues that cannot be investigated or raised openly.
- The government substantially amended the Law on Mass Media in 2018. Yet, according to Article 19, an international human rights organization, the law still “fails to adequately protect and promote the right to freedom of expression as provided for under international law.”1 The statute contains cumbersome standards that impose broad obligations on the media to publish corrections and responses from state officials, as well as provisions that allow authorities to oblige outlets to publish certain content.
- Created in 2019, the Agency of Information and Mass Communications (AIMC) is in charge of press freedoms and, in numerous cases, has openly protected journalists and bloggers, ensuring their freedom of speech and action. The management of the AIMC has been responsive to situations related to journalism. Notably, in May, it announced the unblocking of a number of previously inaccessible websites belonging to independent media outlets like Fergana News and human rights organizations like Amnesty International.2 The AIMC’s relatively positive track record is attributed to the influence of President Mirziyoyev’s daughter Saida, who helped run the agency in 2019 alongside its head, Komil Allamjonov (both left in early 2020).3
- In August, AIMC head Allamjonov suggested that media outlets, bloggers, moderators of social media groups, and messaging applications should bear responsibility for “inflammatory comments that constitute a threat to the state’s information security, offensive words, bullying, [and] false information.”4 Journalists objected to this proposal, arguing that it threatened freedom of speech. Allamjonov invited concerned journalists to an open discussion, but he nevertheless proposed a resolution that would institute liability for such content under the Law on Informatization.5 The resolution would empower law enforcement bodies to inform media outlets and others about such content, which must then be deleted to avoid having their websites blocked.
- In October, blogger Nafosat Olloshukurova was arrested and placed in a psychiatric clinic against her will.6 Before her arrest, she had covered a protest march with posts on Facebook. On her profile page, she expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of public servants and proposed the creation of a body to protect citizens in the Fergana, Kashkadarya, and Khorezm regions from illegal demolitions of private property (see “Local Democratic Governance”).7 Olloshukurova left the country in January 2020 after being released in December, claiming that she no longer felt safe in Uzbekistan. She revealed that she had been tortured by police.8
- Olloshukurova’s case provoked discussions on social media, where activists and commenters suggested that “punitive psychiatry” had been used against her. All state bodies, including the AIMC, insisted that her detention was not related to her criticism of the government.9
- Another case that cast doubt on the government’s commitment to press freedoms involved the hokim (mayor) of Tashkent, Djakhongir Artikkhodjaev. In November, an audio recording of Artikkhodjaev insulting and threatening journalists with physical harm became public.10 The recording had been made a few months prior, after a clash between journalists from the online newspaper Kun.uz and a deputy hokim in charge of Tashkent’s Almazar district.11 The recording sparked outrage online among bloggers and journalists. Political parties also reacted to the case, with some demanding an investigation and others urging de-escalation.
- The issue was settled a few days later when Kun.uz published a more complete version of the recording, which showed that Artikkhodjaev had merely hinted at the possibility of injuring journalists but also stated he did not want to.12 Meanwhile, the General Prosecutor’s Office concluded that it had found no criminal intent in Artikkhodjaev’s words, which nevertheless “violated the rules of ethics of a civil servant.”13 Additionally, it stated that a Kun.uz journalist had broken the law by recording Artikkhodjaev, as had the editors who failed to delete the recording. Two questions remained at year’s end—whether journalists have the right to record any violations of the law by a civil servant and whether threats against journalists should be investigated.
- 1. “Узбекистан: Закон о средствах массовой информации,” Article 19, February 2019, https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/A19_Mass-Media-Law…
- 2. https://www.facebook.com/k.allamjonov/photos/a.205232260233350/45186366…
- 3. “Allamjonov and Mirziyoyeva resign from Information and Mass Communications Agency,” Fergana News, 30 January 2020, https://en.fergana.news/news/114636/
- 4. “АИМК намерено уведомлять СМИ и блогеров о запрещенном контенте,” Gazeta.uz, 21 October 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/10/21/content/
- 5. https://regulation.gov.uz/uz/document/9308
- 6. “A blogger forced into psychiatric clinic in Uzbekistan,” Committee to Protect Journalists, 8 October 2019, https://cpj.org/2019/10/a-blogger-forced-into-psychiatric-clinic-in-uzb…
- 7. “Блогера во время отбывания ареста поместили в психдиспансер,” Gazeta.uz, 7 October 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/10/07/blogger/
- 8. Mehribon Bekieva and Farangis Najibullah, “Blogger Says She Was Beaten, Threatened By Police Before Fleeing Uzbekistan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 21 January 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/blogger-says-she-was-beaten-threatened-by-polic…
- 9. “О деле Нафосат Оллашукуровой — Минздрав, АИМК, Верховный суд и омбудсман,” Gazeta.uz, 13 November 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/11/13/olloshkurova/
- 10. “Джахонгир Артыкходжаев и Kun.uz «урегулировали разногласия»,” Gazeta.uz, 18 November 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/11/18/no-conflict/
- 11. “Угрозы были в адрес журналистов Kun.uz — издание,” Gazeta.uz, 17 November 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/11/17/audio-hokim/
- 12. “Генпрокуратура: хоким Ташкента нарушил правила этики госслужащего,” Gazeta.uz, 27 November 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/11/27/gp/
- 13. “Генпрокуратура: хоким Ташкента нарушил правила этики госслужащего,” Gazeta.uz, 27 November 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/11/27/gp/
|Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities.||1.251 7.007|
- There were no major changes to Uzbekistan’s system of local governance in 2019. Uzbekistan is divided administratively into regions, districts, and then municipalities, which are led by hokims (governors or mayors). The hokims of the regions and the capital city of Tashkent are appointed by the president of Uzbekistan and are formally accountable their corresponding Councils of People's Deputies (local representative bodies). District and municipal hokims are appointed by regional hokims and are formally accountable to their corresponding Councils of People's Deputies. In theory, the Councils of People’s Deputies have veto power over the appointments of hokims.1
- The hokims of regions, districts, and municipalities have executive authority but also head their corresponding Councils of People’s Deputies. This fact has long enabled hokims to abuse their powers and violate the law. In 2018–19, hokims across Uzbekistan facilitated massive unlawful demolitions of private property, including houses and businesses.
- Demolitions were on the agenda in 2019 due to the implementation of two ambitious state programs, “Obod Mahalla” (Prosperous Mahalla) and “Obod Kishlok” (Prosperous Village); these projects are part of the government’s plan to attract foreign investors through the construction of business centers, technology parks, industrial zones, and more modern housing stock.2 But the deficient legal framework for compensating citizens and protecting private property has caused protests across the country.3 For example, in July, a local businessman set fire to a deputy hokim in the Kashkadarya region who attempted to destroy his property.4 In a majority of cases, citizens affected by demolitions received insufficient or no compensation. As of November, the authorities owed more than $115 million to individuals and legal entities for demolitions, primarily in Tashkent.5
- In August 2018, President Mirziyoyev signed a decree stating that private property cannot be demolished until full financial compensation is paid.6 Despite this order, demolitions continued while citizens went uncompensated. By August 2019, public outcry had reached a peak, forcing President Mirziyoyev to weigh in and criticize the conduct of demolitions overseen by hokims of Khorezm, Kashkadarya, and other regions.7 Subsequently, some demolitions stopped, while other continued. The regional hokims retained their jobs.
- Violations of the law by local government officials are ubiquitous. According to lawmker Shuhrat Yakubov, hokims may seize land at any time and for any reason.8 According to observers, hokims flout the law because they are appointed, not elected, and are therefore less likely to be afraid of disappointing ordinary citizens.9
- In May, the Ministry of Justice initiated a project to amend the Law on Local Government. The amendment would expand hokim competences, giving them more power to promote “conditions for the development of entrepreneurship and the investment climate.”10 Meanwhile, this change would also make hokims more accountable to the Cabinet of Ministers and their corresponding Councils of People’s Deputies. These bodies would monitor the work of hokims on a quarterly basis, and those leaders who “have not ensured during the period of their activity an appropriate level of socio-economic development” would not be eligible for reappointment.
- 1. Rustam Urinboyev, “Local Government in Uzbekistan” in Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance, ed. Ali Farazmand, Springer (2018): https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-31816-…
- 2. Yuriy Sarukhanyan, “The Lights of Demolition: Why The Social Tension Is Growing in Uzbekistan?,” CABAR, 1 August 2019, https://cabar.asia/en/the-lights-of-demolition-why-the-social-tension-i…
- 3. “Андижанцы объявили голодовку из-за компенсаций за снесенные дома,” Fergana News, 18 September 2019, https://fergana.agency/news/110892/
- 4. “Businessman sets deputy hokim on fire in Kashkadarya,” Kun.uz, 23 July 2019, https://kun.uz/en/79518104
- 5. “Государство задолжало узбекистанцам $115 млн в виде компенсаций за сносы,” Fergana News, 22 November 2019, https://fergana.agency/news/112711/
- 6. “В Узбекистане запретили изымать земли без полной выплаты компенсации,” Fergana News, 2 August 2018, https://www.fergananews.com/news.php?id=31721
- 7. “«Опозорили мою политику на весь мир» — Шавкат Мирзиёев о ситуации в Яккабаге,” Gazeta.uz, 3 August 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/08/03/qashqadaryo/; “Qashqadaryo viloyati hokimi Zafar Ro‘ziyev xalqdan uzr so‘radi,” Gazeta.uz, 4 August 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/oz/2019/08/04/hokim-uzr/
- 8. Andris Molchanov, “Узбекский депутат пожаловался на изъятие земель хокимами,” Kursuv, 7 June 2019, https://kursiv.kz/news/vlast-i-biznes/2019-06/uzbekskiy-deputat-pozhalo…
- 9. Ikromjon Tukhtasunov, “ELECTIONS-2019: CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR UZBEKISTAN,” Uzbek Review, 15 November 2019, https://medium.com/@uzbekreview2019/elections-2019-challenges-ahead-for…
- 10. “Закон о госвласти на местах примут в новой редакции,” Gazeta.uz, 24 May 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/05/24/project/
|Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions.||1.001 7.007|
- Uzbekistan has made significant changes to its legal system in recent years. In 2017, President Mirziyoyev promulgated a decree that established the Supreme Court as the country’s highest judicial authority. The order also established the High Judicial Council as the justice system’s chief administrative body, responsible for monitoring judges’ performance and proposing candidates for judgeships to the president.1 New administrative courts, in which citizens may sue state bodies, were introduced.2 Higher evidentiary standards have been introduced in court proceedings, although these are ignored in politically motivated cases. Recently, in Uzbekistan, cases of all categories have been examined at open court hearings, marking an improvement in the transparency in the judicial system. Formally, anyone can attend these hearings, but journalists may only record and report on them with judicial permission.3
- Despite the changes, systemic issues persist. According to experts, these problems include a lack of qualified personnel, corruption, and the dominant role of prosecutors in judicial processes and reforms.4 In addition, according to human rights activist Shuhrat Ganiev, the procedure for appointing judges remains non-transparent.5 In general, transparency is a challenge, although in the last two years, there have been a number of open trials, breaking with past practices. Over and above these problems, the measures taken to ensure the independence of the judiciary from other branches, especially the executive branch, have not been sufficient.
- It is difficult to assess the level of public trust in the judiciary. Ganiev claims that 70 percent of complaints received by his Humanitarian Legal Center, a local human rights organization, were related to unfair legal proceedings.6
- Torture remains part of Uzbekistan’s justice system, despite a 2017 decree that made evidence gathered through physical force inadmissible. Torture and other oppressive features of the justice system are not necessarily linked to the central apparatus; rather, they usually occur at the local level. For example, in November, a man in Samarkand died in police custody; his body showed signs of torture.7
- International organizations have called for an investigation into the likelihood that former diplomat Kadyr Yusupov was tortured prior to being given a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence for treason in a closed proceeding.8 According to his family, the charge is spurious. Yusupov and his family endured repeated physical threats during his pretrial detention. His family further alleges that the authorities denied Yusupov, who is schizophrenic, access to proper medication.9
- Prominent Uzbek attorney Allan Pashkovskiy, who represented Yusupov, criticized the Prosecutor General’s Office, especially for its lack of legal supervision in the preliminary investigation and insufficient response to the case’s “gross violations.” In general, Pashkovskiy claims that prosecutors in Uzbekistan only “imitate” their oversight role, routinely failing to pursue allegations of torture and forced confession.10
- In August, President Mirziyoyev ordered the closure of Jaslyk prison, which was notorious for its inhumane conditions.11 At the time of the order, however, the Ministry of Internal Affairs insisted that the prison met “all sanitary and legal standards.”12 According to Human Rights Watch, “Since September 2016, authorities have released more than 50 people imprisoned on politically motivated charges, including rights activists, journalists, and opposition activists.” However, the authorities “have not provided former prisoners with avenues for legal redress, including overturning unjust convictions, or access to adequate medical treatment.”13
- 1. Mjusa Sever, “Judicial and Governance Reform in Uzbekistan,” Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, March 2018, http://silkroadstudies.org/resources/pdf/SilkRoadPapers/2018-03-Sever-U…
- 2. Catherine Putz, “Uzbekistan: Reforms on the Right Path,” The Diplomat, 16 May 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/05/uzbekistan-reforms-on-the-right-path/
- 3. “Правила участия журналистов в судебных заседаниях уточнили,” Gazeta.uz, 27 February 2020, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/02/27/court-openness/
- 4. http://ced.uz/en/kommentarii/problemy-uzbekskogo-pravosudiya-i-puti-ih-…
- 5. “Суд нам не указ. Что мешает реформе судебной системы Узбекистана,” Fergana News, 21 June 2018, https://www.fergananews.com/articles/10024
- 6. “Суд нам не указ. Что мешает реформе судебной системы Узбекистана,” Fergana News, 21 June 2018, https://www.fergananews.com/articles/10024
- 7. “СМИ: «В Самарканде 57-летний мужчина умер во время допроса в ОВД»,” Kun.uz, 19 November 2019, https://kun.uz/ru/news/2019/11/19/smi-v-samarkande-57-letniy-mujchina-u…
- 8. “Consideration of Uzbekistan - 1786th Meeting, 68th Session of Committee Against Torture,” United Nations Committee Against Torture, 12 November 2019, http://webtv.un.org/watch/consideration-of-uzbekistan-1786th-meeting-68…
- 9. “Uzbekistan: Release Retired Diplomat,” Human Rights Watch, 11 June 2019, https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/11/uzbekistan-release-retired-diplomat#
- 10. “«Благодарить прокуратуру не могу» — адвокат,” Gazeta.uz, 2 November 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/11/02/advocacy/
- 11. Mansur Mirovalev, “Uzbekistan closes infamous prison, but experts question motive,” Al Jazeera, 12 August 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/uzbekistan-closes-infamous-p…
- 12. “«Отвечает всем нормам»: в МВД назвали «Жаслык» одной из самых современных колоний,” Kun.uz, 5 August 2019, https://kun.uz/ru/news/2019/08/05/otvechayet-vsem-normam-v-mvd-nazvali-…
- 13. “Uzbekistan: Events of 2019,” Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/uzbekistan
|Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives.||1.251 7.007|
- Uzbekistan has made modest strides in its fight against corruption, cracking down on petty corruption among lower-level civil servants. Yet authorities continue to turn a blind eye to graft, nepotism, and other abuses of power among members of the ruling elite. The country ranked 153 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, a gain of five places over the previous year.1
- Uzbekistan’s economic development plans have given the country’s incipient oligarch class ample opportunities to enrich itself. The most prominent example involves the hokim of Tashkent, Jakhongir Artikkhodjaev, whose business empire was built upon illegal advantages enjoyed by his companies. Prior to his appointment, Artikkhodjaev led “Tashkent City,” a $1.3 billion redevelopment project in the capital.2 An investigation by openDemocracy revealed that a number of contractors and investors in Tashkent City are linked to Artikkhodjaev through a web of associates and shell companies.3 Notably, Discover Invest, one of the biggest developers in Uzbekistan and Tashkent City’s main contractor, is part of Artikkhodjaev’s Akfa Group, which holds a 70-percent share, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).4 Some investors have links to businesspeople operating out of China and Kazakhstan, while others are offshore companies whose beneficial owners are unknown.5
- Artikkhodjaev appears to enjoy de facto impunity. In response to the openDemocracy revelations, the hokim of Tashkent denied any conflicts of interest just before transferring equity in the project to “his wife, managers in the [Akfa] group, and other existing stockholders.”6 Curiously, the Antimonopoly Committee of Uzbekistan (ACRU), in a reply to a Facebook post demanding that the ACRU “stop” the monopolies of Artikkhodjaev’s Artel Group and Crafers, argued that neither company is a monopoly.7
- President Mirziyoyev signed a decree on civil service in October 2019. This is the only legal document regulating the civil service that proclaims a total intolerance of corruption.8 Simultaneously, the Ministry of Justice proposed a draft law that requires income declarations from certain categories of civil servants starting in 2020. However, the country’s highest-ranking officials are not included among those obliged to submit declarations.9
- Although never discussed openly, the issue of conflicts of interest has been included in draft laws proposed by the Ministry of Justice10 and the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations.11
- Uzbekistan has combatted corruption rather effectively in the public services, for example, by employing cameras in passport offices and on public roads12 and by simplifying the process of issuing public documents. In previous years, corruption in public service offices had reached an all-time high, therefore this current reduction is noteworthy.
- Meanwhile, corruption remains high in the spheres of education and healthcare.13 Revelations tend to focus on individual incidents, but these small matters pale in comparison to institutional corruption. According to a Telegram poll, national universities are considered the most corrupt institutions.14 In November, the theft of 15.3 billion soums ($1.5 million) was uncovered at the Center of Obstetrics and Gynecology,15 provoking the hiring of new management and the opening of a criminal case.
The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0–100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.
- 1. “Corruption Perceptions Index 2019,” Transparency International, https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019; Corruption Perceptions Index 2018,” Transparency International, https://www.transparency.org/cpi2018
- 2. “Рабочие принадлежащей главе Ташкента компании жалуются на рабские условия труда,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 29 January 2019, https://rus.ozodlik.org/a/29736654.html
- 3. Kristian Lasslett, “Revolving doors, invisible hands: how the state and private sector are merging in the new Uzbekistan,” openDemocracy, 30 May 2019, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/revolving-doors-invisible-hands-ho…
- 4. “Рабочие принадлежащей главе Ташкента компании жалуются на рабские условия труда,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 29 January 2019, https://rus.ozodlik.org/a/29736654.html
- 5. “The strange connections of Tashkent City’s ‘British investor’,” openDemocracy, 21 February 2019, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/strange-connections-of-tashkent-ci…
- 6. Kristian Lasslett, “Revolving doors, invisible hands: how the state and private sector are merging in the new Uzbekistan,” openDemocracy, 30 May 2019, https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/revolving-doors-invisible-hands-ho…
- 7. “«Artel и Crafers — не монополисты» — АМК,” Gazeta.uz, 21 August 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/08/21/monopoly/
- 8. “Civil service reform in Uzbekistan: white collar — clean hands,” Uzbek Review, 16 October 2019, https://medium.com/@uzbekreview2019/civil-service-reform-in-uzbekistan-…
- 9. “Декларирование доходов госслужащих планируется ввести с 2020 года,” Gazeta.uz, 11 October 2019, https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/10/11/income-declaration/
- 10. http://old.my.gov.uz/ru/getPublicService/332?item_id=2373&action=view
- 11. http://old.my.gov.uz/ru/getPublicService/332?action=view&item_id=1615
- 12. https://www.podrobno.uz/cat/obchestvo/v-uzbekistane-vsekh-gaishnikov-os…
- 13. “Коррупция в Узбекистане и иллюзия борьбы с ней,” Centre1, 22 February 2019, https://centre1.com/uzbekistan/korruptsiya-v-uzbekistane-i-illyuziya-bo…
- 14. “КАКОЙ ВУЗ ТАШКЕНТА БОЛЬШЕ ВСЕГО СКЛОНЕН К КОРРУПЦИИ И КАКОВА СТОИМОСТЬ «ВХОДНЫХ БИЛЕТОВ»,” Uznews.uz, 11 August 2019, https://uznews.uz/ru/article/16377
- 15. В центре акушерства и гинекологии выявлено хищение 15,3 млрд сумов, Gazeta.uz, 8 November, 2019 https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2019/11/08/theft/
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Global Freedom Score10 100 not free
Internet Freedom Score27 100 not free