Uzbekistan’s Constitution Gets an Upgrade: Prioritizing Human Dignity and Social Justice

Javed Maqbool

Uzbekistan’s Senate, the upper house of parliament, has approved the draft constitutional law and adopted a resolution on holding a referendum on the draft law on April 30, 2023. The number of articles of the draft Constitution has increased from the current 128 to 155, and the norms, from 275 to 434. Accordingly, 65 percent of the text of the draft law has been updated.

Public proposals, modern international standards, and the most advanced foreign experience were taken into account in the project

In the discussions, it was noted that a total of 222,715 suggestions were received during the national discussions on the draft constitutional law. Based on them, the draft was improved and finalized. In particular, one out of four suggestions was included in the draft.

Deputies noted that more than 400 international documents, the constitutions of about 190 countries were carefully analyzed during the preparation of the draft Constitutional law. 

Also the articles of the Constitution increased from the current 128 to 155, and the norms increased from 275 to 434, that is, 65 percent of the text of our Basic Law was updated based on the proposals of people, the provisions on human rights and freedoms increased three and a half times, and based on this, the draft Constitution in the new version it was emphasized that all grounds are sufficient for acceptance.

The updated Constitution provides the idea of building a developed state in which the interests of all strata are taken into account. The general public, political parties, public organizations, representatives of expert and scientific circles, and intellectuals actively participated in the development of the project.

Strong social protection and care for the needy will remain a major direction of state policy

The constitution stipulates that the state will undertake a number of increased obligations in order to reduce poverty, create employment, and prevent unemployment. In general, the norms of social obligations of the state are increased threefold. For example, it guarantees that 2,200,000 needy families will receive financial assistance from the state. This corresponds to 25% of the total families. 

For the first time, the state is obliged to take measures to improve the quality of life for socially needy categories of the population. This includes taking measures to create conditions for the full participation of persons with disabilities in the life of society and the state and to exercise their rights.

Guarantees of human rights and freedoms are being strengthened

Ensuring human rights and freedoms is the highest obligation of the state. It is determined that the ambiguities between the person and the state authorities should be interpreted in favor of the person. The rules should increase the responsibility of state agencies in the implementation of their duties in compliance with human rights. They should also prevent the use of excessive legal measures against people.

In the Constitution, the guarantee of personal rights and freedoms of a person is strengthened in accordance with the most advanced international standards. In particular, a person cannot be detained for more than 48 hours without a court order. If the legality and reasonableness of the detention are not proven in court, the person should be immediately released (“habeas corpus”), and during the detention of the person, his rights and grounds for detention should be explained to him in understandable language. (Miranda rules), as well as the right of the accused and defendants not to testify against themselves, i.e., to “remain silent”, is defined. These provisions guarantee the inviolability of personal freedom and the prevention of illegal detention of people.

For the first time, it is established that the right to the confidentiality of correspondence, telephone conversations, mail, electronic messages, and other messages can be restricted only based on the court’s decision. That is, at present, this power belongs to the prosecutor. Its transfer to the courts will be a fundamental turning point in ensuring the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals.

The range of constitutional rights and freedoms is expanding

Human rights and freedoms are significantly expanded in the Constitution. In particular, the scope of constitutional rights includes environmental rights, health care, gender equality, free movement, free choice of residence and place of residence, leaving the country and returning without hindrance, use of the Internet, protection of personal data, higher education, free legal aid, equality in access to public services, the confidentiality of bank transactions and accounts.

The inclusion of rights such as working under favorable working conditions, receiving fair wages for work, rest, receiving a guaranteed amount of medical care at the expense of the state, implementation of public control in the field of urban planning, and budget will further strengthen the economic and social protection of citizens.

The Constitution, our laws, and the activities of state agencies must be based on the principle of “for human dignity”. Therefore, the draft Constitution stipulates that human dignity and dignity are inviolable and nothing can be a basis for discrimination against them.

Guarantees of a competitive national economy, private entrepreneurship, and property rights are being strengthened

In the updated Constitution, a stable basis for the formation of a literally free market economy is being created by strengthening the guarantees of entrepreneurial activity, developing market relations, creating conditions for fair competition, providing a favorable investment and business environment, establishing a fair tax system, and limiting monopolistic activities.

Due to the wide opening of entrepreneurship, their number has increased 6 times in the last six years and has reached 2 million today. There were 26,000 entrepreneurs whose income exceeded 1 million dollars and 220 entrepreneurs who reached 100 million dollars.

In the project, it is confirmed that the state guarantees the protection of property rights and related rights. In addition, it is confirmed that the restriction of property rights is contingent on a court decision. Free movement of goods, services, labor resources, and financial funds is guaranteed in our country. It was noted that this will create a strong legal guarantee for the stable growth of the economy and the free activity of our entrepreneurs and businessmen, who are considered the basis of our prosperous life.

Media and civil society institutions are given ample opportunity and strong protection to be more active

There is a constitutional guarantee of media freedom, including the right to seek, receive, use, and disseminate information.

Deputies recognized that the rule of impeding or interfering with the activities of mass media and journalists, which bring the people’s voice and opinion to the attention of the general publicand state agencies, will be a cause of responsibility, which will increase freedom of speech and information.

For the first time, the inclusion of a separate chapter dedicated to civil society institutions and the establishment of guarantees of their activity in our constitution will provide a solid foundation for strengthening the atmosphere of openness, transparency, and legality in society, strengthening the dialogue between the state and society, and establishing strong public control.

The control functions of the parliament over the activities of judicial and control bodies, law enforcement bodies and special services are being strengthened

Joint powers of the chambers of the Oliy Majlis have also been strengthened. In addition, the institution of parliamentary inspection, which is an important form of parliamentary control, is specifically incorporated into the Constitution.

In order to strengthen the place, role, and influence of the Oliy Majlis in the life of society, some powers of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan are being transferred to the parliament.

In particular, candidates for the head of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Chamber of Accounts are first considered by the Senate and then appointed by the President, as well as the practice of electing the heads of anti-monopoly and anti-corruption bodies by the Senate.

In order to strengthen parliamentary control over the activities of special services, a procedure is being introduced for the candidate for head of the State Security Service. This candidate will be first considered by the Senate and then appointed by the President.

To ensure the true independence of the judiciary, a system of election of all members of the Supreme Council of Judges by the Senate is being introduced.

All issues are brought down to the neighborhood level, where the solution is truly the voice of the people

As stipulated in the constitution, neighborhoods have independent decision-making powers to handle the daily problems of the population and create organizational and financial opportunities. As a result, accountability, transparency, effective decision-making and state power will be increased. The constitution includes norms to ensure the true independence of the judiciary and increase the efficiency of the judicial system.

As mentioned in the discussion, the changes introduced to strengthen the guarantees of the independence of the courts, the inviolability of judges and the lack of accountability in certain cases, and ensuring their safety will be an important guarantee for the full and independent implementation of justice. Deputies noted that the constitutional norm is that the financing of the activity of the courts should be carried out only from the state budget. This should provide the possibility of full and independent implementation of justice to form a truly fair and independent judicial system and ensures the impartiality of the courts.

Giving citizens the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court about the constitutionality of the law applied to them by the court is a new mechanism for protecting their rights and legal interests.