Written by Nilufar Makhmudova

February 26, 2021

Image source: prezident.uz


In December of 2017, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, made an address to the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) for the first time in the country’s history. Since then, it has become a tradition for him to address the Parliament at the end of the year. The address usually covers the most critical issues of social life, including the work that has been done during the year and what should be done in the next. The President’s address serves as a guide on the country’s economic, social, and legal policies for the following year. The President pays special attention to ensuring the rule of law and reforming the country’s judicial and legal system. Many people look forward to this political event nevertheless its short history of only four years.

Legal issues raised in the address of 2020

Between 2017-2019, Shavkat Mirziyoyev touched mainly upon crime prevention issues, enhancing the efficiency of law enforcement and liberalization of criminal legislation. The address of 2020 lasted for nearly 3 hours. In approximately 8 minutes, the President managed to highlight the following issues:

  • Reforming the court system;
  • Broader introduction of the principle of humanism into the penal system;
  • Improving the system of torture prevention;
  • Continuing the policy of granting citizenship.

Reforms in the judicial system

To begin with judicial reforms, the principle of “one court- one instance” was introduced. What does this mean? How different is it from the old system? Up to now the same regional court could consider the case in more than one instance. For example, if a regional court on criminal affairs issued a judgment considering the case as the court of the first instance, it would consider the case again as a second instance if the parties or the prosecutor filed an appellation. According to the principle of “one court- one instance”, one court can consider the case only in one instance. So, suppose now the parties or the prosecutor file an appellation against the judgment of the regional court, just like in our previous example. In that case, the appellation shall be considered by the Supreme Court, not the regional court which has already considered the case once.

Furthermore, the Decree of the President “On additional measures for further improvement of the operations of courts and increasing the efficiency of justice” established the system of a preliminary hearing stage. What is a preliminary hearing? This is a criminal procedure stage where the factors that impede the consideration of a criminal case are identified and eliminated. A preliminary hearing is conducted at the stage of preparing the case for a judicial hearing. According to Article 396 of the Criminal Procedure Code, at this stage, the judge determines if there are any circumstances leading to the termination or suspension of the case and if there are sufficient grounds for the consideration of the case in court. The introduction of a preliminary hearing allows the parties to participate and have a say when deciding the above-mentioned issues.

The number of investment related disputes submitted to courts is increasing year by year. In 2019], economic courts resolved 647 disputes related to investment activities, and more than 3000 disputes related to companies with foreign investment. Based on the Decree of the President “On additional measures for further improvement of the operations of courts and increasing the efficiency of justice,” a new Judicial Panel, which considers investment disputes and competition cases, was formed in the structure of the Supreme Court. The Judicial Panel is vested with the authority to consider investment disputes arising between major investors and government agencies, as well as competition cases. A major investor is an individual or legal entity who invested no less than 20 million US dollars or the equivalent as of the date when the investment was made. Now major investors can go to a special judicial panel instead of going to the ordinary economic court where judges are barely familiar with investment treaties.

In the course of the further expansion of the digitalization of the judicial system for our citizens, the ability to submit documents online without going to court will be established and remotely monitor the progress of their appeals. However, an electronic court system (E-xSud) was introduced in 2014 with the help of USAID. Since then, the system has been improved and expanded. Moreover, all procedural Codes of Uzbekistan give the right to address the court electronically. What precisely the President meant by introducing the electronic court remains entirely unclear.

Broader introduction of the principle of humanism into the penal system

Secondly, the President highlighted specific steps to be taken to ensure the broader introduction of humanism into the penal system. Uzbekistan was renowned by the world community when it shut down Jaslyk prison in 2019. Following this practice, Uzbekistan will close 25 colonies-settlements.

Article 74 of the Criminal Code vests the court with the authority to replace punishment with a milder one for persons sentenced to imprisonment. According to a new policy, if the sentence imposed on a person sentenced to imprisonment for the first time is replaced by a milder one, he will be sent under probation supervision instead of being assigned to a colony-settlement. As a result of this relaxation, 6 thousand people currently serving sentences will be given a chance to live at home with their families under mahalla’s supervision. Probation helps re-educate the criminal by giving him the opportunity to go back to society. Here a reasonable question arises: how effective will the mahalla supervision be? The answer is very controversial since the conditions differ from mahalla to mahalla.

Simultaneously, the powers to change sentences to lighter ones and apply for parole are transferred from the penal institutions to newly created humanitarian commissions. As of now, this initiative has not yet taken legal form. Therefore, nothing can be said as to how the commission will be formed and how different the procedure will be from the old one.

Improving the system of torture prevention

With the expansion of citizens’ involvement with the internet, the cases of torture are frequently being raised in social and mass media by the victims. Last year there have been torture cases by the internal affairs bodies in Andijan and Kashkadarya with fatal consequences. President Mirziyoyev stated that it is necessary to radically revise to improve the system for the prevention of torture in the operational-search activity, the bodies of investigation, and the execution of sentences. The Ombudsman will monitor pre-trial detention centers and penitentiary institutions with the participation of representatives of the public. The Ombudsman will annually report to the Oliy Majlis on the prevention of torture and determine the necessary measures for its eradication. Hopefully, these steps will help prevent torture which constitutes an abuse of power and a grave violation of human rights.

Continuing the policy of granting citizenship

The problem of stateless persons is common among the former USSR countries. Millions of people lost their citizenship due to the collapse of the USSR and failed to obtain the citizenship of newly formed republics. Statelessness deprives a person of political rights and makes it harder for them to realize their fundamental socio-economic rights, such as receiving a medical service or enrolling at a school. The International Observatory of Human Rights, an independent non-governmental organization, reported well over 90,000 stateless people in Uzbekistan. The President stated that approximately 50,000 people who have been residing in Uzbekistan since 1995 could obtain citizenship in 2020 thanks to the adoption of a new law “On citizenship”. The President proposed continuing this policy and allowing 20,000 more people to become an Uzbek citizens if they have been living in Uzbekistan since 2005, that is, for the last 15 years. If successfully implemented, this will gradually solve the problem not only at the national level but also help reach UNHCR’s goal of ending statelessness by 2024.


In conclusion, the President’s address illustrated the main reforms made and to be made in the country’s legal policy. While the 2020 address sounded like a continuation of general reforms in terms of the judiciary and improving the legislation like in the previous address, the 2020 speech is also prominent because it addressed more specific issues such as the judicial settlement of investment disputes. Although the President urged to continue reforms raised in the previous address, it is with regret that other previously referred issues such as reforming the internal migration (“propiska”) system were not addressed this time. It should also be noted that there are still specific challenges to be overcome to reach the goals mentioned above. While legislation-based issues may be easier to be fulfilled, there is much to be done with regard to practical matters. Especially when it comes to tasks such as “mahalla supervision” and prevention of torture, it becomes particularly difficult to monitor the situation. But no matter how difficult it is, we should not deviate from the path of democratic reforms, as mentioned by the President at the end of his speech.

Cite as: Nilufar Makhmudova, “Presidential annual address to the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) in Uzbekistan: main legal issues for the year 2021”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 26.02.2021