By H.E. Mr. Vladimir NOROV, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the Kingdom of Belgium and to the Kingdom of Netherlands.
The Constitution of Uzbekistan – a solid foundation of our progress on the path of democratic development and formation of civil society.
Since the first years of Uzbekistan’s independence the main purpose of large-scale reforms has been to build a democratic state with a socially oriented market economy and a strong civil society. The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, adopted 22 years ago – on 8 December 1992, in which a human being, his/her life, freedom, honour, dignity and other inalienable rights were declared as the highest value, became a solid legal foundation to achieve these goals.
For the years of independence and the results of the reforms demonstrated the rightness of our principles: “Do not destroy the old house if you have not built a new one”, “Reform is not for sake of a reform but for the sake of people” which do not lose their topicality and relevance even today.
Continuing importance and historical role of our Constitution we see primarily that it has made the political and legal framework for the creation of absolutely new national statehood, forming a political and economic system based on democratic principles.
All the achievements for the years of independent development of Uzbekistan in reforming our economic and political system are undoubtedly the result of adherence to the Constitution and consistent implementation of laws adopted on its basis.
Second, having incorporated the fundamental provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other fundamental international instruments, the Constitution enshrines the priority of human rights, interests and freedoms over state interests and defined by its main essence to create decent living conditions for the people and proclaimed the social justice principles.
Thus one of the main advantages of the Basic Law of Uzbekistan is an organic combination of centuries-old traditions of the Uzbek people, historically developed legal culture of the East and the universal values of democracy and freedom, equality and humanism. Additionally, it has absorbed the best practices of constitutional development of many developed democracies, including European countries.
Radical reforms were implemented to liberalize the legal system. The independence of the judiciary and specialization of courts were ensured, turning it into a truly independent institution reliably protecting human rights and freedoms. 16 codes and more than 600 laws have been adopted, and over 80 international human rights documents were ratified. Formation of state government and its regulations are carried on with the principles of the distribution of authority. Legislative, executive, and judiciary powers are the principles of the division of state government. Significant work is being carried to further improve the judicial law and forming independent judicial power:
Courts are specialized in criminal, civil, and economic cases. The mechanism of selecting qualified court personnel is created;
About 75 percent of the crimes in the category of serious and extremely serious were moved to the category of crimes with less harm to society and less serious. Every year on the eve of the Day of the Constitution is carried out amnesty on the basis of the decision of the Senate of Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan and only in 2013 amnesty touched about 70 thousand people. In this regard, today Uzbekistan has one of the lowest in the world in the number of persons in custody – 144 for 100 thousand people of the population.
Alternative types of punishment not related to the deprivation of freedom were created. 26 punishments connected with the deprivation of freedom have been removed;
The institution of mediation has been established on the contents of 53 crimes based on our national traditions;
The terms of initial investigation and imprisonment considerably reduced, and the terms of the hearings of the cases in courts have been determined clearly;
When the damage of property as a result of financial crime is compensated, the punishments which are not connected with life imprisonment are applied; “The Miranda Rule” is applied to the legislation. One is granted for legal aid after he has been caught. The freedom of advocacy and its protection are provided.
The humanitarian ideas in criminal legislation and law enforcement practice had positive impact on the stability of social-political and criminogenic situations in our country.
From 1 January 2008 the death penalty was abolished. The courts were empowered to issue arrest warrants (institute of “Habeas Corpus”). Death penalty has been abolished on the basis tolerance and humanity, instead of it the life imprisonment has been established. Life imprisonment as the final measure of punishment is carried in two cases: terrorism, and murder. This punishment is not applied for women, persons who at the time of committing crime didn’t reach 18, and men above 60.
Third. The Constitution enshrines principle of the rule of law, its equableness for all citizens, and the principle of separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches, creates a legal framework to strengthen their independence, the develops an effective mechanisms of checks and balances, which is a fundamental requirement of any democratic state.
Implemented in Uzbekistan large scale democratic reforms have systematic, consistent and interrelated nature. “The Concept of Further Deepening Democratic Reforms and Establishing the Civil Society in the Country” developed by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in November 2010 opens a new stage of development of the state and society.
In accordance with the main provisions of the Concept, a new law wad adopted which has established a mechanism for the appointment of the Prime Minister, who should enhance the role of political parties in the government, and institution of no confidence motion to the Prime Minister. The Chambers of Parliament have presented the right to hear and discuss reports from the Prime Minister on topical issues of socio- economic development. New powers of Senate include approving presidential decrees on the appointment and dismissal of the Chairman of Chamber of Auditors and a number of other senior officials.
Implementation of reforms on democratization and modernization of the country that are laid down in the Concept is not a task for one or two years, and perhaps decades. But this is the only correct time-tested action program for the continuation reforms started from the very first years of our independence to achieve the high goals that the leadership of Uzbekistan has set – to join the modern developed democratic countries, provide their people a decent living standard and a worthy place in the world community.
In April 2014, the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted the Law “On additions and amendments to the certain articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Articles 32, 78, 93, 98, 103 and 117).”
Constitutional reform is aimed at expanding the powers of the Oliy Majlis and gradual implementation of the principle “From the strong state to a strong civil society.” Basic constitutional novels include the following points.
The first novel is an extension of parliamentary powers.
The Constitution included the norm that a candidate for the post of a Prime Minister at consideration and approval by the parliament presents a program of actions of the Government in the short and long-term perspectives.
In addition, the Prime Minister has the authority to form and abolish ministries and agencies. Previously, departments and agencies were formed and abolished under the presidential decrees.
Тo increase the responsibility of the executive authorities on the ground in front of the representative authority, Article 103 of the Constitution is ‘supplemented with the norm, according to which currently the responsibilities of regional, district and municipal hokims (mayors) include presenting to the local councils of people’s deputies of appropriate level the reports concerning important and topical issues of socio-economic development.
The second novel is a legal tremor to enhance public activity.
Article 32 of the Constitution provides that citizens of Uzbekistan have the right to participate in managing the affairs of society and state through self-governance, referendums and democratic formation of government bodies. This article was added with a norm establishing that now this right is also realized through the development and improvement of social control over the activities of public authorities.
The third novel is the constitutional foundations of strengthening the system of checks and balances.
Introduced changes are an important factor not only in implementation of the constitutional principle of power separation, but also the further development of the system of checks and balances between them.
Expansion of the powers of parliament will strengthen its role. At the same time, in demand is a system of success indicators in the implementation of government programs, development of which is a logical extension of amendments to the Constitution.
The fourth novel is conferring the constitutional status to the Central Election System of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Chapter XXIII dedicated to the electoral system introduced the rules determining the order of forming and basic principles of the CEC.
Fourth. The Constitution established the legal framework for the formation and development of diverse institutions of civil society, free of political parties, the formation and development of a multiparty system, approved the basic principles and mechanisms of the electoral system, strengthened the guarantee of freedom of choice and will of the people, the right of everyone to vote and to be elected to representative bodies, participation of citizens in affairs of state and society.
One of the main priorities of the state policy at the current stage of development of Uzbekistan is the implementation of comprehensive measures to promote the principle of “from strong state to strong civil society”.
Today, there are four political parties. In various areas of public life operate over 6,200 non-profit organizations (NGOs). They have a greater state support in the form of subsidies, grants and social orders. In addition, Uzbekistan has about 10,000 citizens’ assemblies and self-governing bodies – mahallas.
Fifth. Embodying the ideology of national independence and the best human values, the Constitution provided the revival of national traditions, language, ancestral values and culture of our people, created the conditions for moral perfection and harmonious development of mankind.
A comprehensive work on improving the legal culture and justice, political activity and civil responsibility is carried out in the country.
One of the major achievements of Uzbekistan during the years of independence has been the preservation and strengthening of the country’s peace and stability, interethnic and interreligious harmony. This is a direct result of firm compliance to the constitutional principle that Uzbekistan ensures respect for the languages, customs and traditions of the representatives of all races and nationalities living on its territory and creates conditions for their development. Currently, more than 130 nationalities as well as followers of 18 religious denominations live in peace and harmony in Uzbekistan.
Sixth. The Constitution has cemented the principles of the national, multi-structured economy, set the priority of private property by establishing conditions for a decisive transition from unjustified, bankrupt, centralized, command-and-distribution system to a free market economy.
As a result of this policy, most importantly, small business and private entrepreneurship have turned into crucial sector of country’s gross domestic product structure, covering the majority of the socially active population. If in 1991 the share of small and medium-sized businesses was only 1 percent of GDP, today it is more than 55,8 percent. It is vividly proved by the fact that at the moment 75 percent of all of our employed persons work in this very sphere.
According to the polls, nowadays, about 50 percent of our population identify themselves as a middle class, while in 2000 this figure was only about 24 percent.
Today, this social layer – the middle class is interested in the first place, protection of their property, and ultimately in maintaining peace and stability in the country as a whole. Today the middle class is becoming more solid basis for economic and social progress and acts as a decisive force in achieving our long-term objectives for the further development of democracy and liberalization of our political system. All this gives confidence in the future of our country and its progressive dynamic development.
Today Uzbekistan is a self-sufficient country in economic terms. The most important source of sustainably high rates of economic growth is increasing volume of investment in equity capital. During the years of independence, 120 billion USD worth investments were attracted and $50 billion out of which – foreign ones. Currently, the gross domestic product of Uzbekistan, compared with 2000 has increased by 3.1 times, per capita – 2.6 times, the volume of exports by 4.4 times (with 70 percent of its exported goods are value-added products), nominal wages in comparable prices – by 22 times, the average pension – 12.7 times, while real income per capita – 8.4 times.
Uzbekistan is among the few countries worldwide which managed to ensure for the last 5 years the GDP growth on average of 8.3 percent, and in this year it will be around 8.1 percent.
The maternal and child mortality reduction of more than 3 times, as well as an increase in average life expectancy from 66 years to 73 and a half is clear evidence of improvements in the quality of life of our citizens.
Seventh. The Basic Law has defined the legal framework for the formation, effective functioning of national security and defense, the status of our country as a full-fledged subject of international relations with its own domestic and foreign policy based on the interests of the state, the people and its well-being and safety.
The main priority of foreign policy of Uzbekistan in the Concept Foreign Policy Activities is defined region of Central Asia , which is associated with its vital interests. Main directions of Uzbekistan’s Central Asia policy is to ensure peace and stability, including assistance in addressing the situation in Afghanistan, the issues of rational use of transboundary watercourses, environmental sustainability, the adoption of effective measures to combat cross-border threats, establishing close mutually beneficial and constructive cooperation with all neighboring countries.
Priority in the foreign policy of Uzbekistan retains the development of comprehensive and mutually beneficial cooperation with European countries on the basis of common interests. A constructive dialogue and partnership with the European Union and NATO have been gradually developing.
According to the foreign policy concept of Uzbekistan, the key domains of cooperation with European countries and organizations is the development of trade, investment and financial cooperation, high-tech transfer, cooperation in science, technology, education, environment, health and culture, as well as strengthening regional security.
Uzbekistan from the very beginning has supported and is actively involved in the practical implementation of programs and projects carried out since 2007 within “The EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership”.
We believe that one of the key elements of the Strategy, in the context of our mutually beneficial cooperation, should become an assistance in the implementation of adopted by Uzbekistan “Concept of further deepening the democratic reforms and establishing the civil society in Uzbekistan” for fostering the achievement of the main targets in the public, nation-building and socio-economic development – joining of Uzbekistan to the developed democracies of the world.
The EU Member States experience in strengthening the constitutional framework for the rule of law is important for the Republic of Uzbekistan, and we remain open to the constructive dialogue. In this regard, we appreciate the established mutually respectful dialogue with the European Parliament within the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.