Towards a new Criminal Procedure Code – UNODC, Tashkent State Law University Partner to Promote Discussion on Judicial Control, Equality of Arms and Access to Quality Legal Aid in Uzbekistan

On 4 March 2020, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) jointly with the Tashkent State Law University, the General Prosecutor’s Office, Regional Dialogue and other partners organized a roundtable where over 25 criminal justice practitioners, academics, national and international experts came together to discuss the draft new Criminal Procedure Code of Uzbekistan.

“Human rights and freedoms are at the core of the criminal justice reforms taking place in Uzbekistan. Following the adoption of relevant strategic concepts, interagency working groups have been working on new criminal legislation.” – said Mr. Rakhimjon Khakimov, Deputy Minister of Justice, Rector of the Tashkent State Law University of Law at the roundtable.

Among the expected novelties in the Criminal Procedure Code is the introduction of enhanced judicial control during the pretrial stage. “Decisions on arrest, detention, bail and other non-custodial precautionary measures, as well as special investigative measures should be made by a specifically assigned judge”, noted Mr. Koen Marquering, UNODC International Program Coordinator. “Precautionary measures should be applied based on a scale of increasing severity, in which pre-trial detention is applied as a last resort”.

During the event, UNODC presented its Handbook on Ensuring Quality of Legal Aid Services in Criminal Justice Processes as a practical tool with promising practices that Uzbekistan could build on in developing its legal aid system. This feeds into achieving Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the reduction of excessive pre-trial detention under target 16.3.         

“The State Program for 2020 emphasizes the importance of strengthening the bar association. An important step was the liberalization of the licensing procedure for defense lawyers. Today's event is a good platform for discussion of next steps and future objectives.” – highlighted Mr. Khakimov.

Discussions on the draft new Criminal Procedure Code stressed the importance of expanding procedural rights of defense lawyers with a view to ensuring equality of arms in trial proceedings. “Lawyers need to be able to gather evidence without having to rely solely on the results of the investigation led by the prosecution.”, stressed Mr. Marquering. “This should include the possibility to request samples and materials for the provision of forensic expertise”.  

“The topic for today’s discussion, the role of advocates, is of central importance in building an effective and accountable justice system.  When countries lack an effective justice system, corruption flourishes, crime goes unpunished, businesses stop investing, and instability grows.  In today’s interlinked world, instability in one country often spills over borders. That is why the US Government is proud to support such events and partner with Uzbekistan on its path of reforms.” - emphasized Mr. Russell Singer, Director of the US Department of State's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the US Embassy in Uzbekistan.  

UNODC has published several policy papers on judicial control at the pretrial stage of criminal proceedings and independence of lawyers and the rights to legal defense. These papers with recommendations to bring national legislation in line with international norms standards are available here.

UNODC supports criminal justice reform in Uzbekistan with support from INL.

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