Regional Dialogue has organized a study tour to the US for a five member senior judicial group from Uzbekistan, within its US Department of State INL grant award, at the invitation of Judge Jeremy Fogel, the Director of Federal Judicial Center. The visit was well timed and most useful for both sides.
The participants of the Uzbek senior judicial group were Kuchkar Togaev, Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Bakhtiyor Isakov, First Deputy Chairman of the Higher Economic Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Aziz Eshebekov, Inspector of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Nodirjon Juraev, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Askarjon Gafurov, Director of the Training Center for Lawyers under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The group was escorted by Mjusa Sever, Marija Fabiani Čuk and Bekhzod Sharipov from RD.
In addition to the sessions with the US Federal Judicial Center the group also visited the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan and conducted meetings with American Bar Association, US Department of State, US Department of Justice, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and US Sentencing Commission, attended hearings at US District Court for the District of Columbia and reviewed the Court Case Management System.
The main focus of the trip were sessions at the US Federal Judicial Center (FJC), led by Director Judge Jeremy Fogel and joined by several other senior judges and other experts. Three days of intense discussions were spent exchanging views and experiences, discussing the challenges and priorities of the ongoing judicial reforms of Uzbekistan, describing professional needs of lawyers and judges in the country, and defining specific plans for legal and judicial education. US experts shared their experiences with improving the institutional independence of judiciary, and explained their practices as used in judicial research, and case management. They focused on the professional conduct of judges, transparency of the courts, and better access to justice. Part of discussions included the review of US practices of plea bargain institute in criminal proceedings, and the delegation had the opportunity to monitor two on-going plea bargain hearings and discuss the process afterwards with the sitting federal judge.
Members of Uzbek judiciary have expressed their desire to strengthen cooperation with the Federal Judicial Center and made concrete plans for regular exchanges.
At the in-depth meeting at the US Department of State, the Uzbek participants had the opportunity to explain the latest judicial reforms, currently ongoing in Uzbekistan and replied to many questions, related to the policy plans for further democratization in Uzbekistan.
The meeting at the US Department of Justice was mainly marked by discussions about the latest draft law on anti-corruption. US interlocutors stressed that the UN Convention on Anti-Corruption, ratified by Uzbekistan in 2008, offers solid ground to strengthen bilateral cooperation in this area, in addition to other mechanisms based on international mutual assistance. Members also discussed procedures used for strict judicial oversight of wire-tapping and of other pre-trial measures. At the meeting at School of Advanced International Studies, a division of Johns Hopkins University, the delegation met with Silk Road Chairman and Founder Frederick Starr and Silk Road Project Director Swantee Cornell.
The trip was an excellent opportunity for both sides to analyze and compare Uzbek and American experience in the sphere of judiciary and choose the best practices for its implementation.
All US experts that met with the group were extremely helpful and responsive to all the questions and requests of the delegation. At the same time, the senior group members expressed great interest to cooperate and learn more from those US experiences that could be helpful in strengthening efficient and independent judiciary in Uzbekistan.