Substantial reforms in judicial and legal system are forthcoming
A new decree signed by the Interim President aims to provide genuine independence of courts, enhance the protection of rights and freedoms of citizens, and increase access to justice.
On October 21 the Interim President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyayev signed the decree «On measures to further reform judicial and legal system, and enhance guarantees for sound protection of rights and freedoms of citizens”. According to the publicized by the UzA official commentary to the document, the decree signifies a transition of the state policies in the respective sphere to the whole new level.
The decree defines the three core priorities: provision of genuine independence of judiciary, enhancement of guarantees for sound protection of rights and freedoms of citizens, and increase of access to justice.
The most significant tasks of judicial, law enforcement, and regulatory agencies are defined in the decree as follows:
rigorous abiding to the provisions of the article 112 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan on independence of judges, and on judges as subjects only to law and to the principle of unavoidability of punishment for interference in administration of justice by judges;
protection of rights and legal interests of citizens, proper actions in response to offences, prevention of bureaucratic delays and non-observance of the review procedure of petitions from natural and legal persons;
provision of openness and transparency of activities by timely informing the public, enhancement of cooperation with civil society institutions, media, and population;
identification and elimination of systemic deficiencies and violations through improvement of regulatory enforcement and current legislation, introduction of advanced technologies and ICT;
increase of internal control, preventive measures, prevention of abusive practices and other violations among staff, improvement of quality of personnel, introduction of modern techniques for personnel selection, assuring that the best candidates are appointed.
In order to provide genuine independence of judiciary, improve the status of the profession, form skilled and effective judiciary, the term of tenure was changed for the first time. Thus, the procedure stipulates the appointment of judges for the initial five-year long and following ten-year long terms, and finally, lifetime tenure.
Along with that, the decree introduces a set of changes into criminal law, criminal procedure law, civil procedure law, and other laws effective April 1, 2017. These changes are set to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of administration of justice amid insuring the priority of human rights and freedoms, enhancement of guarantees for fair and timely judicial proceedings, and just and humane punishment.
In particular, the penal sanction in the form of arrest is repealed, while the application of alternative types of punishment, that are unrelated to deprivation of freedom, is broadening. Therefore, one of the most severe form of sentence is excluded from the system of criminal punishment. This is consistent with the current policy of liberalization of criminal punishment, with broad application of progressive reforms and methods of correctional impact on law perpetrators.
Within the framework of enhancement of legal guarantees for protection of rights and freedoms of citizens during criminal proceedings, the period of detention of a suspect is decreased from 72 hours to 48 hours, and the temporal limits on detention in custody and house arrest, and pretrial investigation of criminal case are decreased from one year to 7 months. On one hand, introduction of these measures will provide citizens with protection against groundless restriction of liberty, and enhancement of responsibility and effectiveness of investigative authorities, on another hand.
In compliance with broadening application of Habeas Corpus, the authority of prosecutors to sanction the interception of postal mail and execution of exhumation are in competence of judicial bodies now. These changes are in full compliance with Constitution and common principles and norms of international law, that postulate that personal rights and freedoms of a human are inviolable and nobody has a right to limit or take them away without charge or trial.
Apart from that, the court is authorized to apply the alternative types of restrictions in case if detention or house arrest are reject as a form of punishment.
It is noteworthy to mention such a novelty as repeal of return of criminal cases for additional investigation by the court. This novelty aims to increase the speed and quality of legal proceedings, elimination of ungrounded delay of final decisions, and enhancement of the role of courts in criminal proceedings.
Decreasing the period from 3 years to 1-year, within which the review of the court decision in civil case is possible, is set to provide the stability in civil matters, and protection of rights and legal interests of the participants in civil litigations.
In order to strengthen the current system of review of judicial decisions on the grounds of their lawfulness and soundness, and also to eliminate the unnecessary intermediate appellate agencies, which negatively affect the period and quality of judicial proceedings, the decree repeals the duplicate appellate agency for review of decisions in civil and criminal cases by courts at regional level, with further repeal of rights of respective presiding judges to lodge the protest. Along with that, duplicate supervisory powers of the plenum of the Supreme Court to review the court decisions are also revoked.
Elimination of redundant and duplicate agencies will help to prevent multiple review of a case by the same supervisory agency, provide the finality and stability of criminal judgement, and therefore, increase public trust towards courts.
The decree also stipulates the creation of regional appellate courts in the system of economic courts. This aims to revoke the authority from regional economic courts to review their own decisions.
A very important provision of the decree, which enhances the foundations for independence of judiciary, is transferring of functions and control over procurement and financial support of courts of general jurisdiction from justice institutions to the Supreme Court. This measure creates additional guarantees for independence of courts and non-interference into their activities.
Also, on the basis of advanced international experience, the Supreme Court, the Highest economic court, the Office of General Prosecutor and other stakeholders are assigned a task to prepare well-grounded proposals on:
improvement of the training system for judiciary and prosecutors and preparation of managing personnel;
enhancement of legal protection of underage in legal proceedings, liberalization of criminal punishment, and also, review of periods and foundations for expiry and cancellation of conviction;
development of arbitration and mediation institute within criminal procedure while taking into account kindness and mercy - the age-old traditions of Uzbek people. This provision will allow for liberation from criminal responsibility of those who sincerely repent their deeds and repaired the inflicted damage;
decriminalization of particular crime components that pose no big risk or danger to public;
broadening the list of components of crimes, which are followed by initiation of a criminal case only upon the victim files the notice with the police;
improvement of quality of administration of justice thanks to introduction of modern forms and methods of electronic litigation and execution of judgement, and advanced techniques for access to justice. The implementation of this initiative will serve to increase the effectiveness of judiciary, and also allow for the step-by-step implementation of principles of openness, transparency and accessibility of justice for the society in full compliance with the current development stage of the republic within the framework of the Law “On e-government”.
In addition, in order to broaden the role of state agencies’ legal departments in enforcing of the rule of law and effective implementation of current state reforms, particular measures for further improvement of their activities are stipulated in the decree.
In order to implement these priorities and new norms, the decree adopts the Program of extensive measures, stipulating 45 defined actions in the 8 most prioritized spheres of judiciary system development.
During implementation of the decree, changes and additions will be introduced into the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Civil Procedure Code, Economic Procedure and other legislation. In order to improve and enhance the protection of rights and freedoms of citizens, the adoption of special laws is planned, in compliance with established international standards, including the following laws: “On protection of injured persons, witnesses and other participants of criminal proceedings”, “On mediation”, “On administrative legal proceedings», etc.
As it is noted in the commentary, implementation of the present program document will allow for promotion of the state’s judiciary to the whole new level, provision of sound protection of rights, freedoms, and legal interests of citizens, and also, enhancement of trust and confidence of public towards judiciary.