On March 14, 2023, Tashkent hosted the thirty-eighth plenary session of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The senators considered the issue of holding a referendum on the draft Constitutional law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan”.
On March 10 this year, a meeting of the Legislative Chamber was held. A resolution was adopted on the appointment and holding of a referendum on the draft Constitutional law. The resolution also provided for sending it to the Constitutional Court to determine its compliance with the Constitution and get an opinion.
On March 13 this year, the Constitutional Court held its meeting, studied the above resolution and recognized it as consistent with the Constitution. By the Law “On the Referendum of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, the draft Constitutional law was considered in the Senate.
Based on the idea that “the only source and author of the Constitution should be the people”, a nationwide discussion was held on the draft Constitutional law. More than 220,000 proposals for its improvement were received from the population, of which every fourth is reflected in the draft law.
During the preparation of the draft Constitutional law, more than 400 international documents adopted by the UN, the OSCE, the SCO, the EU, the Organization of Turkic States, and other international organizations, and the constitutions of almost 190 countries were carefully analyzed.
The draft Constitutional law was discussed several times with the participation of international experts and specialists with about 10 foreign and international experts and was also supported by them.
Fundamental norms are introduced regarding the legal status of the state of Uzbekistan
For the first time in the Constitution, it is fixed as an invariable provision that Uzbekistan is a sovereign, democratic, legal and welfare state. This fundamental norm is aimed at preserving and further strengthening the independence of the country, intensive continuation of reforms based on the principle “For the sake of human dignity” and ensuring the priority of law.
Uzbekistan in international relations will remain committed to good neighborliness and strategic cooperation
The pursuit of a peaceful foreign policy by Uzbekistan, the recognition of the principle of the territorial integrity of states along with the principles of the sovereign equality of states, the non-use of force or threat of force will further enhance the status of the country as a reliable partner, faithful to the generally recognized ideas of international law.
The senators noted that it was not easy to melt the 25-year-old ice between us and our neighbors, this required great political will and great work, and by solving the 30-year border problem with our fraternal Kyrgyzstan alone, over 2 million residents of the valley got the opportunity to move freely and communicate with family and relatives.
Ensuring human rights and freedoms is defined as the highest duty of the state
In the draft law, ensuring human rights and freedoms is fixed as the highest duty of the state. The senators emphasized that this norm permeated the content of the entire Constitution. In particular, it is fixed that human rights and freedoms determine the essence of laws, the activities of state bodies, and their officials.
At the same time, ambiguities in the relationship of a person with state bodies are interpreted in favor of a person, and legal measures should be based on the principle of proportionality and be sufficient to achieve legitimate goals.
In the draft law based on the principle “person – society – state”, the norms relating to human rights are increased by almost 3.5 times. In particular, a rule is introduced that enshrines the guarantees of the inviolability of the person in criminal proceedings, that everyone has the right to freedom and inviolability of private life, to the secrecy of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal, electronic, and other messages. Restriction of this right is allowed based on a court decision.
For the first time at the level of the Constitution, it is fixed that the state creates conditions for access to the worldwide information network Internet.
The signs of a welfare state focused on the principle of social justice and solidarity have been reflected
The Constitution triples the norms relating to the state’s social obligations, in particular, it establishes that the state assumes several new obligations to reduce poverty, ensure employment, and protect against unemployment.
During the discussion, it was emphasized that the state undertakes to create conditions for the full use of objects and services of the social, economic and cultural spheres by persons with disabilities, to facilitate their employment and education, to improve the quality of life of socially vulnerable categories of the population, which is also characteristic of a welfare state.
The right of everyone to housing, the duty of the state to encourage housing construction and create conditions for the exercise of the right to housing is fixed.
The constitutional foundations for protecting public health are being strengthened
At the meeting, the main attention was paid to the fact that the draft increased by 4 times the norms related to the protection of public health. In particular, for the first time at the level of the Constitution, everyone’s right to health protection and qualified medical care is enshrined.
It was emphasized that the state undertakes the obligation to provide several free medical services to the population. In 2023, the package of guaranteed services will be revised, the volume of diagnostic, treatment and preventive services for 20 types of diseases will be fully provided, free primary tests for 20 common diseases will be increased from 15 to 25, examinations – from 10 to 20, medicines – from 64 up to 90.
The right to education and teachers is protected by the Constitution
For the first time, the draft law includes provisions for granting academic freedom to higher education organizations, and support for non-state education organizations.
The new version of the Constitution guarantees the receipt of free higher education at the expense of the state on a competitive basis. The senators emphasized that until 2017 the number of state grants for entering universities only decreased. Over the past six years, the situation in this matter has completely changed. The number of grants has doubled and reached 40,000.
At the same time, the organization of inclusive education and upbringing in education institutions for children with special needs, the organization of their education in all secondary schools is the implementation of the principle of human dignity in New Uzbekistan.
The draft law also notes that the state will create conditions for the development of preschool education and upbringing, and primary vocational education is free. During the discussion, it was noted that over the past six years, the coverage of children in kindergartens has increased from 27 percent to 70 percent, and new norms are included in the Constitution, which will allow achieving new goals in this direction.
The senators also noted the norm on protecting the honor and dignity of teachers, ensuring their social and material well-being, and caring for their professional growth. At the meeting, it was noted that this norm consolidates the work carried out in the country over the past six years to increase the importance of the teacher, his prestige and status, and contributes to a further increase in the social status and prestige of teachers in society.
Constitutional guarantees for the prohibition of forced labor are established
Forced labor, which for many years was a huge problem in our society and negatively affected the international image of the country, has been completely eradicated. The practical result of the work in this direction was the cancellation by the international coalition of the Cotton Campaign in 2022 of the cotton boycotts, which since 2009 has been a stigma for the country.
The senators noted that the direct enshrining in the Basic Law of a ban on any child labor that adversely affects the harmonious development of children will guarantee that this vice will go down in history.
Market mechanisms will be further developed and the inviolability of private property is guaranteed
The main attention is paid to the development of the national economy and entrepreneurship, improving the investment climate in the country and further strengthening the protection of property. The state determines the mechanisms for developing market relations, creating conditions for fair competition, ensuring a favorable business and investment climate, and protecting the inviolability of private property.
The rights of youth, children, women will be protected by the state
The project strengthens the guarantees of human rights and freedoms, the rights of children, youth, and the resolution of family issues. In particular, care for youth, children, women, families is being strengthened as the most important task of the state and society. The state establishes the protection of the personal, political, economic, social, cultural rights of young people.
The senators emphasized that it is important that the project includes a separate chapter on the problem of youth, which is more than 18 million people.
In particular, the state is responsible for ensuring the protection of the rights of young people, stimulating their active participation in the life of society and the state, creating conditions for their spiritual, intellectual, creative, physical and moral development, and the realization of their rights. It was noted that these provisions provide young people with the opportunity for full self-realization.
The norms concerning the protection of the environmental rights of citizens are fixed constitutionally
Special legal norms are established dedicated to ensuring the environmental rights of citizens. In particular, it is determined that the state takes measures to improve, restore and protect the environment, maintain the ecological balance, protect and restore the ecological system of the Aral Sea region.
In this regard, the senators noted that to ensure the environmental rights of citizens and prevent harmful effects on the environment, the state creates conditions for public control in urban planning.
The norms concerning civil society institutions and the media are being further developed
The role and status of civil society institutions are constitutionally strengthened. For the first time, a separate chapter is included on civil society institutions. A definition of civil society institutions is given and guarantees for their activities are established.
The Constitution guarantees the freedom of the media, their rights to seek, receive, use and disseminate information. It is also clearly established that obstructing or interfering with the activities of the media entails liability.
The system of state power is being radically reformed and parliamentarism is being strengthened
The foundations of the organization of state power, the status and interaction of the legislative and executive branches of power are being radically improved, and the balance between the highest bodies of state power is being strengthened. The powers of the parliament are being strengthened, the status of the Senate as a chamber of territorial representation is being improved.
If under the current Constitution, there were 5 exclusive powers of the Legislative Chamber, then according to the draft, there are 12 of them. The exclusive powers of the Senate are increased from the current 14 to 18.
By the draft law, the exclusive powers of the Legislative Chamber include the authority to consider and approve the candidacy of the Prime Minister, based on the best foreign experience, a procedure is introduced for the President to consult with all factions of political parties before submitting the candidacy of the Prime Minister to the Legislative Chamber. It was noted that thanks to this, the process of nominating a candidate for the post of Prime Minister becomes more democratic.
It was emphasized that the updated Constitution proposes to introduce a practice according to which candidates for the positions of the Prosecutor General, the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber are first considered in the Senate and then appointed by the President, and the heads of the anti-corruption body and the antimonopoly body are elected by the Senate.
At the plenary session, it was noted that the number of senators is changing from the current 100 to 65 to increase the efficiency of the Senate by ensuring its compactness. At the same time, the current procedure for the formation of the Senate, including equal representation at places, is preserved. It was emphasized that this norm would bring the activities of the Senate in line with the goals of the ongoing administrative reforms in the country.
It is established that hokims do not head Councils of People’s Deputies
It was noted that the rule on the abolition of the institution of chairmanship of hokims in Councils of People’s Deputies serves to introduce the principle of separation of powers at the local level, increase the efficiency of the activities of local Councils, the responsibility of hokims to people’s representatives, and fully ensure the interests of the people in the regions.
Guarantees for the independence of the judiciary strengthen
The senators noted that the inclusion in the new version of the Constitution of important norms to strengthen guarantees for the independence of the courts, establish the immunity and accountability of judges in specific cases, and ensure their safety will become an important guarantee for the full and independent administration of justice.
Especially the constitutional norm that the financing of the activities of the courts should be carried out exclusively from the state budget, and this should ensure the possibility of full, independent administration of justice, serve to form a truly fair and independent judicial system.
Giving citizens the right to apply to the Constitutional Court regarding the constitutionality of the law applied to them by the court is a completely new democratic order that allows citizens to protect their rights and legitimate interests.
Thanks to these amendments and additions, the number of articles of the Constitution has increased from the current 128 to 155, the volume of norms has increased by 65 percent. It was noted that the number and content of these changes and additions testify to the need for adopting a new edition of the Constitution.
Following the discussion, the senators adopted a resolution “On holding a referendum of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the draft Constitutional law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, according to which the referendum is scheduled for April 30, 2023.