Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Reforms & Changes in Judicial System of Uzbekistan

Sat 11 May 2024 | 09:26 PM
File photo
File photo

The genuine independence of the judiciary is essential to building a democratic State based on the rule of law and a strong civil society.

In this regard, ensuring the true independence of the judiciary in our country, reliable protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, as well as increasing the level of access to justice in the field of further reform of the judicial and legal system were determined as the main priorities of the state policy.

In the past short period, comprehensive measures have been implemented to ensure the real independence of courts and fundamentally improve the judicial system.

In recent years, Uzbekistan has continued to improve the legislative basis for strengthening the independence and institutional foundations of the judicial system. In the progressive continuation of the reforms, the new version of the Constitution adopted by referendum on 30 April 2023 was of great importance as a powerful stimulus and legal basis.

In assessing the effectiveness of reforms in the judicial system, international ratings and indices, including the Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project (hereinafter – Index), have a special importance. There is a need to timely inform the international community about the systematic work and positive changes in the field of justice in our country.

According to the 2023 report of the index, Uzbekistan ranked 97th out of 142 countries with a score of 0.39 in the sub-indicator of due process of the law and rights of the accused in the criminal justice process.

However, the issue of respect for the rights of the accused has been strengthened at the constitutional level. When arresting a person as a suspect in a case, it is necessary to explain to him his rights and the grounds for his detention in an understandable language, not to give evidence against himself to the accused and the defendants (the internationally recognized "Miranda rule"), and everyone has the right to restore their violated rights in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan and international treaties. and the right to appeal to international bodies protecting their freedoms was strengthened at the level of the Constitution.

In addition, Uzbekistan ranked 96th out of 142 countries in terms of access to justice, with a score of 0.50. In this regard, in order to increase citizens' access to justice, the economic courts, which operated only at the regional level until 2017, were abolished and transformed into inter-district, district (city) economic courts. As a result, citizens can save time and money, and the ability to protect the rights of people living in remote areas, including entrepreneurs, through the courts has increased.

In order to ensure the independence of the courts and their obedience only to the law, the determination of the first five-year, then ten-year, and then indefinite period of tenure as a judge became important. Because this procedure of being in the position of a judge requires the judge to perform the task entrusted to him in an exemplary and conscientious manner, as well as serves as an incentive rule for re-election or appointment to the position for the next term, and after performing his duties in an exemplary manner, to be elected for ten years and even for an indefinite period.

However, despite this, the fact that Uzbekistan ranks 126th with 0.27 points in the sub-indicator of freedom of civil justice from improper government influence and 122nd place in the sub-indicator of freedom of criminal justice from improper government influence with 0.22 points indicates that there is a need for wider awareness of the implemented reforms.

In order to establish a unified judicial practice, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Economic Court were merged into the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan. This reform led to the elimination of overlapping functions in the management of the judicial system and the formation of a unified judicial practice.

On the basis of regional and equivalent courts in civil, criminal and economic cases, courts of general jurisdiction have been established at the regional level, while maintaining the strict specialization of judges. The creation of unified courts of general jurisdiction within the judicial system has made it possible to eliminate excessive bureaucratic obstacles to judicial protection and to bring the existing structure of the judiciary into line with modern requirements and international standards.

The Supreme Council of the Judiciary, which promotes respect for the constitutional principle of the independence of the judiciary, was established to enhance the capacity to establish an open judiciary; a transparent and alternative system for the selection and appointment of judges.

At least half of the Council was composed of judges, including representatives of civil society institutions and highly qualified legal experts, and law enforcement agencies were excluded.

The mechanism of bringing judges to disciplinary responsibility has been improved, and the authority of court presidents to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges has been terminated.

In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. DP-6134 of January 13, 2021, the court financing system was brought into line with international standards, and it was determined that the salaries and additional payments of judges and court officials will be fully financed from the state budget.

In order to inform the public and the mass media about the activities of the courts, it is particularly important that the chairs of the regional courts and their deputies hold briefings every quarter, and the decisions issued by the courts are regularly published on the website of the Supreme Court.

At the same time, Uzbekistan ranked 98th with a score of 0.61 in the index's sub-indicator of accessibility, impartiality and effectiveness of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

It should be noted that the institution of conciliation in criminal proceedings has been expanded, and institutions of pre-trial hearings, simplified proceedings, mediation, preliminary hearing institutions have been introduced in criminal courts, civil and economic courts.

In order to strengthen the role of the administrative courts and turn them into real defenders of citizens and business entities, the administrative courts were instructed to gather evidence on their own initiative to determine the true circumstances of the case.

Starting from January 1, 2024, the cases considered in the first instance by the inter-district, district, and city courts in the regional and equivalent courts in the appeal or cassation procedure, the cases considered in the regional and equivalent courts in the appeal or cassation procedure in these courts, in the regional and equivalent courts The practice of re-examination of the cases examined in the order of inspection by the judicial panels of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as re-examination of the cases considered in the inspection procedure of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan by the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan was established.

The peculiarity of the supervisory instance is that the procedure of sending the decision of the lower court to the lower court for a new proceeding in the higher court was abolished, and each court was entrusted with the final decision of the case.

From February 1, 2024, as an experiment, "Family Judges" were established in Samarkand city, Namangan inter-district and Mirzo Ulug'bek inter-district courts for civil cases, specializing in family disputes.

By introducing modern information systems “Adolat” to the activity of the courts, citizens were provided with the following conveniences:

- solving disputes of citizens and entrepreneurs in courts remotely without visiting the court building;

- online verification of the process of consideration of claims, applications and complaints by interested parties;

- sending information and documents by the participants of the court session in electronic form;

- citizens receive court documents in electronic form certified by the electronic digital signature of the judge;

- to use the sample application for various disputes and get acquainted with the list of documents that must be attached to this dispute;

- electronic calculator designed for automatic calculation of the amount of state duty and making appropriate payments without going to the bank;

- to find out online about the date and time of consideration of cases scheduled for a court session without coming to the courthouse;

- to be aware of the information about the time and place of the court session.

In order to further enhance the digitization of the justice sector, the procedure for obtaining the necessary information and documents directly from State organizations in electronic form by the courts themselves, Without disturbing citizens between the information system of courts and 38 information systems of state bodies and organizations were implemented in practice, the exchange of data was fully digitized.

The implemented measures serve to ensure the independence of the courts by allowing citizens and business entities to apply to the courts for the protection of their rights and interests, to achieve justice and the rule of law, and to ensure transparency in the activities of the courts.