From the 17th to the 18th of October, UNDP joined USAID, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, UNODC, OSCE, INGO and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in holding the international conference ‘The Democratization of Legislation and Law Enforcement Practices in Criminal Law and Criminal Proceedings Spheres: Uzbekistan’s Experience’ at the Wyndham Tashkent Hotel.

Bringing together distinguished international and domestic delegates, the international conference discussed key achievements made in terms of Uzbekistan’s Five-Area Development Strategy for 2017-2021 and the ‘Rule of Law Partnership in Uzbekistan’ project conducted by UNDP, USAID and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Crucially the event served to gather recommendations for on-going reform work in Uzbekistan’s legal sector and justice system.

There were two key focuses of the conference. The first focus was recently-introduced legislative and constitutional reforms, which have served to improve public access to justice and address the punitive nature of Uzbekistan’s legal system. The second focus was on the existing practical outcomes of these reforms, one example being the marked reduction in the number of national imprisoned individuals from 7,804 in 2017 to 4,828 in 2018.

Honoured speakers at the event included the Chairperson of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan Mr. Kozimdzhan Kamilov, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in the Republic of Uzbekistan Mr. Farid Garakhanov, OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan Mr. John McGregor, and Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Judicial and Legal Issues Mr. Botir Matmuratov. National justice professionals, academics, and representatives of the media were present, as were international academics and law experts from the United States, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, and various European Union nations.

The conference’s three opening talks focused on the importance of parliamentary oversight in protecting human rights, the role of internal affairs agencies in preserving human rights and freedoms, and the democratization of issues related to defense lawyers’ participation in criminal proceedings. Four breakout sessions were held after these talks, focused on criminal law reform, criminal procedural reform, international standards in criminal law and procedures, and counteracting crime and preventing law violations.

A theme running through the conference was the need to draw together international experience in legal and judicial reform, as a means of creating potential recommendations for Uzbekistan’s own judicial system. Study of international practice has been a long-term feature of the ‘Rule of Law Partnership’ project, examples of which have included international study tours to Europe, whose related reports have had a significant impact on Uzbekistan’s lawmakers. The international experience discussed at this conference focused broadly on judicial development undertaken throughout the OSCE region countries, and also more specifically in the Central Asia region.

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