UNODC and Partners Mark Nelson Mandela Day in Uzbekistan: A Focus on Torture Prevention and Penal Reform

With the continued rise of the global prison population, discussion on the rights of over 10 million incarcerated people worldwide is more important than ever. In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of prisoners. The revised rules are now known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules” in honour of the former President of South Africa who spent 27 years in prison in the course of his struggle for peace and freedom.

Nelson Mandela International Day is observed every year on 18 July. The day serves to promote humane conditions of imprisonment; raise awareness about prisoners being a continuous part of society; and value the work of prison staff as a social service of particular importance.

As the custodian of the Nelson Mandela Rules, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) partnered with national and international counterparts to mark the 10th Nelson Mandela International Day in Uzbekistan.

“On this Mandela Day, I would like to express my support to all prison staff in Uzbekistan and recognize the work of all those who are on the front line, risking their health and making sacrifices to ensure public safety”, noted Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia, during a virtual roundtable on “Perspectives for the development of penal legislation in Uzbekistan” hosted by the Academy of the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO Academy).

“For prisoners, their families and loved ones, the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly trying. Ensuring their health and well-being must be at the heart of infection prevention and control measures, while respecting the fundamental safeguards outlined in the Mandela Rules”, Ms. Mittal added.

Ms. Layli Mutalova, UNODC National Programme Officer, presented UNODC’s E-learning Course on the Nelson Mandela Rules to the participating staff from the General Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs(MOIA), Main Department of execution of sentences and Academy of the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO). Having exchanged views with Mr. Myrzabek Tuiganov from the Kostanay Police Academy in Kazakhstan on their experience with the rollout of the course, it was agreed to launch the course in Uzbekistan using the learning facilities of the GPO Academy as a basis.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Yevgeny Kolenko, Head of the GPO Academy, stressed that “comprehensive measures are being taken in Uzbekistan to improve the system for the execution of sentences, ensure the protection of the rights of convicts and enhance their prospects for reintegration in order to prevent reoffending.”

Among the measures taken, Mr. Kolenko noted the establishment of the Probation Service under the Main Department for the Execution of Sentences of the Ministry of Internal Affairs(MOIA). Mr. Mukhmadali Ismoilov, Chief of the MOIA’s Probation Service, provided a detailed overview of the work undertaken to apply non-custodial sanctions and promote social reintegration of offenders in Uzbekistan. Based on discussion with lead experts on probation from Latvia and Kyrgyzstan, participants recommended providing a wide range of non-custodial measures and promoting alternatives to incarceration as much as possible in the new criminal legislation currently being drafted.

During the roundtable, Ms. Dilnoza Muratova, Deputy Director of the National Human Rights Center, noted the recent adoption of Uzbekistan’s National Human Rights Strategy and called for cooperation on its implementation. She stressed the importance of further entrenching the prohibition of torture in legislation and practice. It was agreed to conduct further expert consultations on draft new legislation to ensure the criminalization of torture in line with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Torture prevention was the focus of another online conference on “Liberalization of the justice and penitentiary system: National and international experience” led by the Ombudsman Office in partnership with the “Yuksalish” National Movement and co-organized by UNODC, OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and Regional Office of Penal Reform International for Central Asia (PRI).

The Government of Uzbekistan recently announced its decision to establish an anti-torture committee. UNODC along with other UN agencies expressed readiness to assist the authorities in implementing fully the recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture and UN Human Rights Committee relating to independent and effective torture investigation, enhancing independent oversight of places of detention and strengthening the role of civil society.

UNODC promotes criminal justice reform in Uzbekistan with support from the US State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.


About UNODC in Central Asia

About e-learning Course on Nelson Mandela Rules