Uzbekistan

Last updated: 25 November 2020

Coronavirus Response

On April 1, 2020, a Special Republican Commission decision established a strict self-isolation regime for Tashkent, Nukus, and regional centers. Persons older than 65 were prohibited from leaving their homes except to visit pharmacies or grocery stores. The decision also temporarily suspended the organization of private charitable events. In addition, on March 26, 2020, amendments to Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and Code on Administrative Offences substantially increased liability for violations of medical and quarantine procedures, including criminal liability for distributing “false” information related to quarantine or infectious diseases, with more severe penalties for sharing such information in the media or internet — up to a $10,000 fine and three years imprisonment. For additional details, see ICNL’s COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker entry for Uzbekistan.

Update

On August 18, 2020, the Government of Uzbekistan (GoUz) posted the draft Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Rallies, Meetings and Demonstrations” (draft law) on the government portal Regulation.gov.uz for public discussion in Uzbek. The draft law drew significant criticism in comments posted on the portal. The draft law does not regulate assemblies conducted by political parties or public and religious organizations. (A public organization is the most popular type of an NGO in Uzbekistan.) The potential impact on these types of organizations is ambiguous due to the lack of regulation in Uzbek law. Organizations are concerned that these assemblies might not be possible at all, or that their regulation could end up being more restrictive than the draft law. Further, the draft law states that the “procedure for organizing and conducting mass events shall be established by legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan.” The meaning of “mass events,” (Article 2 of the draft law) is unclear, nor how such mass events are different from other types of events regulated in the draft law and how they are regulated by legislation.

Introduction

After Uzbekistan became an independent republic in 1991, civil society slowly began to develop. As with other countries of the former Soviet Union the legal framework is based on the civil law tradition, and legislation governing NGOs generally includes statements of support and protection for NGOs. Nonetheless, more than 25 years since independence, civil society does not yet play a vibrant role in the country. The government has tended to view the civic sector with suspicion. Indeed, most foreign and international NGOs which had operated in the country during the 1990s and early 2000s have since been closed and expelled from the country. In 2005, the government mandated a process of re-registration for NGOs, which led to a significant reduction in the number of NGOs in the country. In 2013 a number of organizations were also reportedly subject to “a new wave of inspections” by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the country’s tax authorities. Legislative trends under former President Islam Karimov were generally restrictive.

The country’s first president after the Karimov era, Shavkat Mirziyoev, assumed power in September 2016 and has thus far supported a number of initiatives that the potential to be enabling for the CSO legal environment:

1. On December 26, 2016, Mirziyoev signed the Law on Social Services for the Elderly, Disabled and Other Socially Vulnerable Categories of the Population (the Law on Social Services). The law was developed within the framework of the implementation of the State Program “Year of attention and care for the older generation”. The main purpose of the law is to improve the legal framework for the provision of social services to the needy and to increase the role and responsibility of government, NGOs and business entities in this area.

2. On February 7, 2017, President Mirziyoev issued a decree to approve the Action Strategy on Five Priority Areas of the Country’s Development for 2017-2021 (the “Action Strategy”) (Russian) (Uzbek). In general, the Action Strategy emphasizes improvement to state management and services, comprehensive judicial and legal system reforms, economic liberalization and financial reforms, optimizing and improving social service provision, among other issues. NGOs are specifically mentioned in the Action Strategy, where it notes the “necessity of further development of civil society institutions and improvement of their social and political activism” (Paragraph 1.3 of the Action Strategy). The Action Strategy also refers to NGO engagement with government bodies to assist in “countering crime and the prevention of offenses” (Paragraph 2.4 of the Action Strategy.)

3. On April 12, 2018, President Mirziyoyev signed the new Law on Public Control (effective as of April 13, 2018). The purpose of the law is to establish a legal framework for public oversight over the activities of government bodies and government officials. In accordance with the law, citizens, citizens’ self-government bodies, non-commercial organizations (NNOs), and mass media have the right to exercise oversight over activities of government bodies and officials.

4. In the wake of the Implementing Decree on Measures to Fundamentally Enhance the Role of Civil Society Institutions in the Process of Democratic Renewal of the Country of May 4, 2018, the Ministry of Justice an order on June 1, 2018, that establishes the Regulation on the Procedure for Informing about Planned Activities of Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations. It replaces the Regulation on Procedure of Coordination of NNOs’ Activities of June 4, 2015. According to a summary posted on Norma.uz, from June 1, 2018:

  • NGOs are no longer required to obtain approval from the MoJ in order to conduct events, but still need to notify the MoJ of plans to conduct such events;
  • The minimum period for informing the justice body of planned activities is reduced to:
    • 10 days before the start of event without the participation of foreign citizens;
    • 20 days before the start of event with the participation of foreign citizens; and
  • Justice bodies will only provide NGOs with written notice in case of a refusal to conduct the event.

5. On June 27, 2018, the Ministry of Justice issued an order that establishes a new form of annual reporting on the activities of NNOs for submission to the justice bodies. The new form will serve as uniform reporting form for NNOs, their structural divisions, as well as for branches and representative offices of foreign non-profit organizations. By contrast, there were previously three separate forms of reporting for each of the types of organizations listed.

Other recently adopted initiatives establish new procedures for the regulation of CSOs, but do not significantly change or improve their regulation:

  • On August 8, 2018, the Ministry of Justice adopted the new Regulation on Monitoring and Studying Activities of Non-governmental Noncommercial Organizations by Justice Bodies. In accordance with President Mirziyoyev’s Decree of May 4, 2018, the Regulation establishes a separate procedure on monitoring and studying NGOs’ activities.
  • – On October 23, 2018, through Government resolution #854 the Cabinet of Ministers of adopted new Regulations on the Procedure for the Interaction of Justice Bodies with Other Government Bodies, Local Governmental Bodies, and Law Enforcement Agencies to Identify Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organizations that Violate the Law. The Regulation is aimed at establishing a system of communications between various governmental bodies and justice bodies to monitor all violations by foreign and local CSOs and their representatives. Violations listed in the regulation range from minor violations, such as changing the address without notifying the justice bodies, to the receipt of funds from the illegal sources.

In addition, on February 13, 2019, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution on Measures of Organization of Activity of the Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organization – Nationwide Movement “Yuksalish” and its Territorial Subdivisions. The mission of “Yuksalish” is to provide assistance in implementation of planned reforms, including those specified in the State Program on Implementation of the Action Strategy on Five Priority Directions for the Country Development from 2017-2021. And, lastly, several resolutions in 2019 have indicated the Government is making efforts to to simplify NNOs’ access to foreign funding.

Further, the new Law on Voluntary Activity came into effect on December 3, 2019. The law’s purpose was defining legal bases for voluntary activity. Previously Uzbek legislation did not include such terms as “volunteer” and “voluntary activity”. The law also further distinguished between forced labor and voluntary activity benefiting public causes, made clear that compensation of certain expenses associated with voluntary work is permitted, and provided volunteers with the right to obtain insurance from an organizer of a voluntary activity. At the same time, the law established new requirements for all participants of voluntary activities. For example, participants of voluntary activities are required to notify the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) about their activities, while the MoJ was given new and extensive powers in the area of voluntary activity.

Organizational FormsNon-Governmental Non-commercial Organizations (NGOs), which include public associations, public funds, institutions and associations of NGOs
Registration BodyMinistry of Justice
Approximate NumberNumber of registered NGOs is unknown. According to the Uzbek government reports, there were over 6,000 NGOs in Uzbekistan as of November 2013.This number includes multiple branches of such groups as Kamolot Public Youth Movement, Uzbekistan’s Women Committee, Independent Institute of Monitoring of Establishment of Civil Society (NIMFAGO), Makhalla Fund, and National Association of Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations (NANNOUz), among others, which are subsidized and controlled by the government.
Barriers to Entry(1) Mandatory registration; unregistered group activities prohibited;
(2) Detailed documentation requirements, and potentially burdensome registration fee;
(3) Vague grounds for denial of registration;
(4) Implementing regulations allow the registration body “to leave the registration application without consideration,” contrary to the law. Such action does not allow the group to either appeal the denial to court, or to re-submit the registration application, leaving it in legal limbo;
(5) The registration application, at the discretion of registration bodies, can be sent for “expertise” to other government bodies, which prolongs the registration process beyond the 1 month allowed for by law for consideration of the registration application; and
(6) Excessive time delays in government review of registration applications.
Barriers to Activities(1) Burdensome and vague reporting requirements;
(2) NGO obligation to ensure governmental access to all activities;
(3) Advance governmental approval required for particular NGO activities;
(4) Harsh sanctions for violation of law.
Barriers to Speech and/or AdvocacyIn practice, the Government may act against NGOs that engage in certain kinds of advocacy activity.
Barriers to International Contact(1) Advance governmental approval required for conferences, international participants, etc.;
(2) Limited access to certain websites.
Barriers to ResourcesLimits on foreign funding
Barriers to AssemblyRegulations vague or nonexistent; severe punishments and the threat of use of force deter protests.
Population30,565,411 (2020 est.)
CapitalTashkent
Type of GovernmentRepublic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
Life Expectancy at BirthMale: 71.7 years
Female: 78 years (2020 est.)
Literacy RateMale: 100%
Female: 100% (2020 est.)
Religious GroupsMuslim: 88% (mostly Sunnis); Eastern Orthodox: 9%; other: 3%
Ethnic GroupsUzbek 83.8%, Tajik 4.8%, Kazakh 2.5%, Russian 2.3%, Karakalpak 2.2%, Tatar 1.5%, other 4.4% (2020 est.)
GDP per capita$6,900 (2017 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2009.

Ranking BodyRankRanking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index108 (2019)1 – 189
World Bank Rule of Law Index3 (2019)100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index11 (2019)100 – 0
Transparency International158 (2019)1 – 168
Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldStatus: Not Free (10)
Political Rights: 2 Civil Liberties: 8
(2020)
1 – 40
1 – 60
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index67 (2018)177 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International AgreementsRatification*Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)Yes1995
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)Yes1995
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)Yes1995
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)Yes1995
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)Yes1995
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenNo
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)Yes1994
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)No
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)No
International Labor Organization’s The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise ConventionYes2016
Regional Treaties
CIS Agreement on joint activity in relation to foreign humanitarian aidYes1993

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan [1] was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan on December 8, 1992.

Relevant constitutional provisions include:

  • Article 30. All state bodies, public associations and officials in the Republic of Uzbekistan shall allow any citizen access to documents, resolutions and other materials, relating to their rights and interests.
  • Article 32. All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall have the right to participate in the management and administration of public and state affairs, both directly and through representation. They may exercise this right by way of self-government, referendums and democratic formation of state bodies as well as through development and improvement of public control over the activities of state authorities. The procedure for exercising public control over the activity of state bodies is determined by law.
  • Article 33. All citizens shall have the right to engage in public life by holding rallies, meetings and demonstrations in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The bodies of authority shall have the right to suspend or ban such undertakings exclusively on the grounds of security.
  • Article 34. All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall have the right to form trade unions, political parties and any other public associations, and to participate in mass movements. No one may infringe on the rights, freedoms and dignity of the individuals, constituting the minority opposition in political parties, public associations and mass movements, as well as in representative bodies of authority.
  • Article 56. Trade unions, political parties, and scientific societies, as well as women’s, veterans’ and youth leagues, professional associations, mass movements and other organizations registered in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law, shall have the status of public associations in the Republic of Uzbekistan.
  • Article 57. The formation and functioning of political parties and public associations aiming to do the following shall be prohibited: changing the existing constitutional system by force: coming out against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of the Republic, as well as the constitutional rights and freedoms of its citizens; advocating war and social, national, racial and religious hostility, and encroaching on the health and morality of the people, as well as of any armed associations and political parties based on the national or religious principles. All secret societies and associations shall be banned.
  • Article 58. The state shall safeguard the rights and lawful interests of public associations and provide them with equal legal possibilities for participating in public life. Interference by state bodies and officials in the activity of public associations, as well as interference by public associations in the activity of state bodies and officials is impermissible.
  • Article 59. Trade unions shall express and protect the socio-economic rights and interests of the working people. Membership in trade unions is optional.
  • Article 60. Political parties shall express the political will of various sections and groups of the population, and through their democratically elected representatives shall participate in the formation of state authority. Political parties shall submit public reports on their financial sources to the Oliy Majlis or their plenipotentiary body in a prescribed manner.
  • Article 61. Religious organizations and associations shall be separated from the state and equal before law. The state shall not interfere with the activity of religious associations.
  • Article 62. Public associations may be dissolved or banned, or subject to restricted activity solely by the sentence of a court.

[1] English text of Constitution.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Draft Code on Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organizations
Following a presidential decree, the Government of Uzbekistan created a working group to develop a draft Code on non-governmental non-commercial organizations (NNOs). The working group is tasked to codify and systematize NNO legislation through study of international best practices and established national law enforcement practice. In March-May, activity on the draft NNO Code was postponed due to COVID-19 quarantine measures in Uzbekistan..

Draft Law on Public Control

Uzbekistan is developing a new version of the Law on Public Control, which aims to introduce effective forms of public control (oversight) of the activities of state bodies based on international practice. The law is expected to be adopted in 2020.

Draft Law on the Public Chamber under the President of Uzbekistan

In accordance with the Presidential Decree dated April 16, 2020 on Establishment of a Public Chamber under the President, the newly formed Public Chamber is obligated to develop a self-regulatory law within three months, or by July 2020. The draft law will provide a legal basis for the activities of the Public Chamber.

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

The Civil Code defines a legal entity to include both commercial and non-commercial organizations and contains a list of permissible legal forms, including, among others, the public association, public fund, institution, legal entities’ associations (societies and unions), and citizens’ self-governance body. Mirroring the language of the Civil Code, the Law on NGOs states that non-governmental, non-profit organizations may be established in the following forms: public association, public fund, institution, and other lawful forms provided by legal acts. The Law on Public Associations is the primary law under which NGOs are established and operate. In addition, NGOs may form associations or unions, with the purpose of coordination of their activities, and in order to represent and advocate common interests. NGOs can be established for protecting the rights and lawful interests of natural persons and legal entities; for achieving social, cultural and educational aims; to satisfy spiritual and other non-material needs; and for realizing other public benefit purposes. Founders of an NGO must detail the organizational purposes in the charter of the NGO.

A public association is a voluntary association of citizens (natural persons only) who have joined together for the realization of their common interests in the areas of politics, economics, social development, science, culture, ecology, and other aspects of life (Article 1, the Law “On public associations” and Article 11, the Law “On NGOs”).

A public fund is recognized as a non-membership organization, founded by natural and/or legal persons on the basis of voluntary property contributions, pursuing charitable, social, cultural, educational, or other public benefit purposes (Article 12, the Law “On NGOs” and Article 3, the Law “On Public funds”).

An institution is recognized as an organization established by natural and/or legal persons in order to realize social, cultural and other functions of non-profit nature (Article 13, the Law “On NGOs”). Notably, the legal form of “institution” is a legacy of the Soviet legal system. There are no existing procedural rules in place to establish and register an institution; in practice, therefore, this form is essentially non-existent.

The association (union) of NGOs is a legal entity whose founding members are legal persons (NGOs). It is not possible to establish an association made up of both natural and legal entities simultaneously. Members of associations (unions) have secondary (vicarious) liability on obligations of the overarching association (union); the degree of liability is based on the charter of the association (union).

A citizens’ self-governance body (more commonly known as “mahalla”) is a traditional form of neighborhood organization. The activities of the “mahalla” are governed by the Law “On self-governance bodies”.

Uzbek law also categorizes NGOs according to the territorial scope of their activity: international NGOs, which can operate not only in Uzbekistan, but in other countries; republican or inter-regional NGOs, which can operate in several regions of Uzbekistan or throughout the country; and local NGOs, which can operate only in one region or in Tashkent city.

Public Benefit Status

Uzbek law provides for a “charitable organization” status, but it is not linked to fiscal benefits. Instead, all registered NGOs are exempt under tax law from certain taxes and financial obligations. Details follow.

(1) A charitable organization is a non-governmental, non-commercial organization established for the purpose of implementing philanthropic activities in the interest of the public at large as well as in the interest of specific categories of legal entities and physical persons (Article 3 of the Law “On charity”). Charitable organizations may be created in the form of a public association, foundation or in any other form stipulated by legislative acts (Article 6 of the Law “On charity”). Significantly, however, there are no tax or fiscal benefits linked to charitable organization status. Article 14 of the Law “On Charity” declares that government can provide support (e.g., discount on rent, if the accommodation or other property is owned by government; transfer government property to charitable organizations, and so on) to charitable organizations. But there is no legal obligation to provide concrete benefits to charitable organizations.

(2) According to Article 17 of the Tax Code, the term non-commercial organization includes all legal entities that do not seek to gain profit as the main purpose of their activities and do not distribute income (profits) among their members. Through registration, NGOs accrue rights as a legal entity and the status of a non-commercial organization. All non-commercial organizations, irrespective of their organizational legal form, are exempt from the following taxes:

  • corporate income (profit) tax, except where NGOs carry out commercial activities (Article 126 of the Tax Code);
  • value-added tax, with some exceptions (Article 197 of the Tax Code);
  • corporate property tax (Article 265 of the Tax Code);
  • land tax (Article 279 of the Tax Code);
  • tax on use of water resources (Article 257 of the Tax Code); and
  • tax on improvement and development of social infrastructure (Article 295 of the Tax Code).

In addition, non-commercial organizations are exempt from the following compulsory payments:

  • compulsory payments to non-budget pension fund (Article 312 of the Tax Code);
  • compulsory payments to Republican Road fund (Article 316 of the Tax Code); and
  • compulsory payments for school education development (Item 5 of Regulation “On order of calculating and payment of compulsory payments for school education development”).

The foregoing fiscal privileges do not generally apply to income generated through the commercial activity of NGOs. Certain categories of NGOs are exempt from several compulsory payments and taxes, even where the NGO carries out economic activity through a corporate subsidiary. For example, enterprises owned by public associations of disabled persons, the Fund “Nuroniy (Нуроний)” and associations of “Chernobolci of Uzbekistan (Чернобольцы Узбекистана)” – if disabled persons make up at least 50% of the total amount of enterprise staff – are exempt from VAT and corporate income (profit) tax (Article 158 of the Tax Code).

Barriers to Entry

There are multiple legal barriers affecting the formation and registration of NGOs in Uzbekistan.

First, registration is mandatory and unregistered group activities are prohibited. An NGO is established only when officially registered (Article 15 of the Law “On NGOs”). Available sanctions for carrying out activities through an unregistered include a fine 50-100 times the minimum wage (Article 239 of the Administrative Code). Active participation in unregistered (i.e., illegal) organizations exposes offenders to a fine 50-100 times the minimum wage or detention of up to six months or imprisonment of up to five years (Article 216 of the Criminal Code).

Second, the registration requirements, which vary according to the organizational form, are more demanding than the registration requirements for commercial organizations. Required documentation is quite detailed. As of January 1, 2014, the registration fee for NGOs is reduced 5 times. This means that the current fees are four minimal monthly incomes for national associations and two minimal monthly incomes for local associations. In contrast, prior to January 1, 2014, in order to register a national level public association it was necessary to pay 20 minimal monthly incomes (1,900,000 som, approximately $863), and in order to register a local public association 10 minimal monthly incomes (950,000 sum, approximately $430) were required. The registration fee for registration of symbols of NGOs has also been reduced 2.5 times the prior amount. No fee is required for registration of branches of NGOs. Organizations of disabled persons, veterans, women’s and youth organizations will only pay half of the registration fee.

Third, the implementing regulations (Rules on Consideration of Applications on Registration of By-laws of Public Associations) allow the registration body “to leave the registration application without consideration,” contrary to the law. Such action does not allow initiative groups to either appeal the denial to court or to re-submit the registration application, leaving them in legal limbo.

Fourth, the registration application, at the discretion of registration bodies, can be sent for “expertise” to other government bodies, which prolongs the registration procedure beyond 2 months allowed for by law for consideration of the registration application (1 month starting from January 1, 2014),

Fifth, the grounds for denial of registration may invite the exercise of excessive government discretion. Specifically, the law allows for denial where the name or symbols of an NGO encroaches on “morality, national or religious feelings of citizens”.

Arguably the most serious barrier to registration is the excessive time delays for government review of applications. The law does define a fixed time period within which the Ministry of Justice must consider and decide on registration applications: one month from the receipt of the application for a public association; not more than one month for a social fund; and ten days for an association of NGOs. According to the “Rules of processing the applications for charter registration of public associations acting on territory of Republic of Uzbekistan,” the period of registration review can be extended by an additional month; this extended period is often missed by the registration body.

The problem of unprocessed applications is aggravated by the inability to appeal. Notably, the refusal of registration can be appealed in a court by law. But where the application is simply unprocessed, the NGO applicant has no ability to appeal and no alternative recourse.

In September 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee held in the case of Kungurov v. Uzbekistan that the procedure in Uzbekistan for registering the non-governmental organization “Democracy and Rights” violated both the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of association, under Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively.

For more information, please see the statement from Article 19.

Barriers to Operational Activity

NGOs are subject to burdensome reporting requirements. According to Article 33 of the Law on NGOs, NGOs must maintain records of the results of their activities, and must submit reports to the registration authorities (Ministry of Justice and its departments), to the statistical authorities, and to the tax authorities. All NGOs are subject to the same detailed reporting standard; there is no simplified reporting form available for small and medium-sized NGOs. The frequency of reporting varies with the category of report; some are required on a monthly basis, some on a quarterly basis, and others on an annual basis.

While clear standards have been set for reporting to the statistical authorities, there is no regulation or legal guideline that defines the reporting procedure to the Ministry of Justice and its departments. In practice, NGOs provide reports to registry bodies every quarter. The required content of the reports may change; In January 2010, for example, NGOs in Tashkent were notified by the Ministry of a new reporting form, which contains 58 questions. Moreover, the tax authorities, as of January 2010, are requiring NGOs that previously used a simplified tax and reporting system to re-calculate their tax obligation and prepare new reports, based on the requirements of the generally established tax system. To complicate matters, NGOs are being given only 10-15 days to accomplish the task.

According to Article 8 of the Law on NGOs, NGOs are obliged to provide access to information on the use of organizational property and financial assets. In addition, NGOs must ensure that the Ministry of Justice has access to all their activities. This provision is problematic in large measure because of its ambiguity; should NGOs notify the registry bodies about all their activities, including internal meetings, or only about public events? The answer is unclear. In practice, NGOs provide information about public events.

The law requires that NGOs seek and secure approval from the Ministry of Justice for particular activities. But the law does not define what particular activities require Ministry approval. This ambiguity in the law obviously creates confusion among NGOs, and gives the Government excessive discretionary power.

This problem is exacerbated by the harsh sanctions available in case of violation of the rule. Specifically, conducting events without the approval of the Ministry of Justice could subject NGOs – that is, the staff members of the NGO – to a fine amounting to 100-150 times the minimum wage.

Severe sanctions are also available for the failure to submit reports, for the late submission of reports, and for the submission of reports in the wrong form. Article 239 of the Administrative Code, applicable to NGOs, provides for a fine amounting to 50-100 times the minimum wage. For-profit companies, by contrast, face a far lighter penalty for the same violation; Article 215, applicable to for-profits, envisions a fine amounting only to 7-10 times the minimum wage.

On April 25, 2016, the government adopted a Law on Introduction of Amendments to Some Legislative Acts, which introduced amendments to the Law on Non-Governmental Non-Commercial Organizations (Law on NNOs), the Law on Public Foundations, the Law on Bank Secrecy, the Law on Charity, and the Code of Administrative Liability. This new legislation represented a significant deterioration in the NGO legal environment because it introduced additional restrictions on activities, such as the requirement to notify the Ministry of Justiceabout upcoming trips of NGO representatives to foreign countries, and to obtain approval for the receipt of all funds and assets from foreign states, organizations, and citizens.

Government-organized NGOs (GONGOs) may pose a potential threat to independent civil society in Uzbekistan, but it is not clear if GONGOs have actually had a negative impact on the NGO sector. There have been positive examples of cooperation between GONGOs and NGOs. In 2005, the National Association of NGOs of RUz (NANNOUz in Russian) was established. While clearly controlled by the Government, NANNOUz has done some good things for the NGO sector, by creating informational centers throughout the country for NGOs, and by providing small grants to NGOs. Admittedly, these small grants were awarded to the members of NANNOUz, but nonetheless this marked the first instance of government providing financial support to NGOs from the state budget. The small grants program and budgetary assistance for NGOs is now being extended on an annual basis.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

According to Uzbek law as written, there are no barriers restricting speech or advocacy activity in Uzbekistan; NGOs and individuals are both free, in theory, to criticize the Government, for example. In practice, however, there are constraints on speech and advocacy. NGOs engaging in human rights activity or government monitoring, for example, may be subject to harassment or even termination. Because these measure are extra-legal (i.e., outside the law), they are unpredictable.

NGOs are affirmatively granted the right to participate in legislative activities, and “to exercise lawmaking initiative.” For example, some NGOs make seek engagement with Parliament and/or governmental bodies by preparing analyses of legislation or through conducting a conference to facilitate cross-sectoral dialogue on draft legislation. In practice, however, few NGOs take advantage of this right.

Barriers to International Contact

NGOs seeking to conduct a conference, to invite international participants to these conferences, etc. must secure advance approval from the Ministry of Justice. In practice, NGOs submit a letter to the Ministry of Justice, describing a proposed conference (goals, date, participants, etc.). If the Ministry grants permission for the conference, the NGO can move forward with planning; if the Ministry refuses permission, then there will be no conference.

In addition, all citizens seeking to work abroad must receive permission from the Ministry of Labor.

Access to certain websites is banned for all citizens. Indeed, on August 5, 2011, the Cabinet of Ministries passed a Resolution no.228 “On additional measures on development system of monitoring in sphere of mass communications”. According to this Resolution, an “expert commission” will be created to identify information that is exerting a negative social impact on the citizens of Uzbekistan and the source of that information. The “expert commission” can recommend to close any mass media outlet or prohibit the dissemination of any informational resource in Uzbekistan.

Barriers to Resources

The process of receiving foreign funding has been simplified in 2019. For example, in a generally positive development the Regulation on Procedure of Harmonization of Receipt by Non-governmental Non-commercial Organizations with the Registration Body of Monetary Assets and Assets from Foreign States, International and Foreign Organizations, Citizens of Foreign States or, by Their Authorization, from Other Persons, Approved by the Decree of the Cabinet on Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, was passed on October 9, 2019. It was significant for NNOs and donor organizations because it changes the procedure for obtaining approval of receipt of funding from foreign sources. According to this Resolution, NNOs are exempt from obtaining any pre-approval from, or providing notification to, government agencies for funds not exceeding approximately $470 per year. NNOs shall obtain a confirmation of harmonization for funds exceeding $470 per year from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The MoJ was the agency in charge of prior approval for all foreign aid received by NNOs prior to this Resolution. Therefore, the harmonization procedure still effectively means pre-approval procedure.

However, it is now slightly less challenging than the former procedure. Moreover, there is also a list of instances in which an NNO is not required to obtain pre-approval at all, including, for example, when foreign aid is identified as such in bilateral cooperation agreements between two countries or when aid comes from a foreign source through a joint agreement between an Uzbek government agency and an NNO. In such instances, an NNO may simply notify the MoJ about receipt of such aid and the MoJ has 15 days to consider documents submitted for prior approval (harmonization) of foreign aid, which is a shorter term than it had before. However, the MoJ still has authority to demand additional information, which might extend this period. There is also a broad list of reasons to deny pre-approval, including provision of non-reliable information in the NNO’s application, non-provision of additional documentation, and receipt of funds for purposes in contradiction with the statutory purposes of an NNO-recipient, among others. There is clearly room to further improve the new procedure for obtaining access to foreign funding by NNOs. However, despite the ambiguity of certain requirements, this represents a simplification of the pre-existing procedure for obtaining prior approval to receive foreign funding. Time will tell whether these improvements are reflected in practice.

In addition, the Resolution on Measures of Improving Mechanisms of Attracting Means of External Gratuitous Contributions and on Work with Donors Resolution dated October 14, 2019 primarily enables government agencies to work with international donors and establishes rules for how government agencies may engage with international donors. The Resolution identifies the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade as the government body in charge of attracting and managing use of foreign grants and managing relationships with foreign donors. The Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade will play the determining role in defining programs on attracting assets of external gratuitous support and cooperation with donors. Through the Resolution, government bodies receive the authority to attract grants of $100,000 or more for a single project by including them into the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade’s programs on attracting assets of external gratuitous support and cooperation with donors. It is not very clear yet what this exactly means and the implementation will therefore be revealing, but one possibility is that if a foreign donor gets buy-in from a government agency (for activities within one of the pre-approved programs on attracting assets of external gratuitous support and cooperation with donors), the particular project, if it includes grants to NNOs, might be pre-approved without the need to obtain additional approvals for each individual grant from the MoJ.

The Resolution also makes some structural changes within the Government of Uzbekistan. Relevant changes include abolishment of the Bureau on Coordination to the Commission of the European Union in Uzbekistan under the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan and the establishment of the Department on Coordination of External Gratuitous Support within the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade. The impact of this restructuring is not yet clear, however.Lastly, the Resolution also determines a list of priority projects for external gratuitous support for the period 2019-2020.

Barriers to Assembly

Article 33 of the Constitution of Republic of Uzbekistan establishes that “All citizens shall have the right to take part in civic activities by way of participating in rallies, meetings and demonstrations in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Government agencies shall only have the right to suspend or ban such events on the grounds of substantiated security considerations.”

Article 12 of Law #1051-XII “On the Guarantees of the Citizens’ Electoral Rights” of May 5, 1994 confirms that the “electorate shall be guaranteed the right to take part in civic activities in the form of rallies, assemblies and demonstrations” in compliance with the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan.”

On July 29, 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers passed Decree #205 “On measures of Further Improvement of the Procedures for Organizing and Holding Public Events,” which established the rules for holding “mass events” (Addendum #1 to the Cabinet’s Decree #205 of July 29, 2014). A “mass event” is defined as “the presence of citizens, organized at the venue of a public happening for the purpose of holding social and political programs (i.e. symposia, conferences, congresses, etc.); cultural and entertainment programs and performances (music, literature and other festivals, concerts, theatrical, sports and promotional events, folk festivals, circus and folkloric shows, games, displays and competitions, etc.); and also national religious and professional celebrations, with the attendance of 100 people or more.”

Excessive Penalties
Penalties contained in the “The Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Administrative Responsibility” may deter organizers from planning and conducting public assemblies. For example, fines in the amount of 60-80 times the minimum allowable monthly wages and an administrative detention period of up to 15 days may result from violating the established procedure of organizing or carrying out public gatherings, rallies, marches and demonstrations (Article 201). In addition, any provision of premises or other property (means of communications, copiers or other technologies, equipment or vehicles) or facilitating conditions for carrying out [public gatherings, rallies, marches and demonstrations] may result in the imposition of fines in the amount of 50-100 times the minimum allowable monthly wages on regular citizens, and 70-150 minimum times the monthly wages on government officials (Article 202).

Threat of Use of Force
Since 2005, when hundreds of protesters were killed in confrontations with the Uzbek security forces in Andijon, there have been few public protests.

UN Universal Periodic Review ReportsUzbekistan (April 24, 2013)
Reports of UN Special RapporteursUzbekistan
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country NotesNot available
Human Rights WatchWorld Report 2018: Uzbekistan
U.S. State Department2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Fragile States Index ReportsForeign Policy: Fragile States Index
IMF Country ReportsUzbekistan and the IMF
International Commission of JuristsNot available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online LibraryUzbekistan

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Uzbekistan: Public or State Chamber (April 2020)
It is known that Shavkat Mirziyoyev in his address to the Oliy Majlis at the beginning of this year, had put forward a number of proposals for the development of civil society. In particular, in order to strengthen public control and establish closer interaction between the state and society, he proposed creating the Public Chamber of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Based on this, on April 16, 2020, a Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the establishment of a Public Chamber under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan” was issued. The decree defines the main activities of the Public Chamber, as the establishment of a modern form of systemic and effective dialogue, combining the efforts of the state, citizens and civil society institutions aimed at further accelerated and comprehensive development of the country. As well as ensuring the coherence of their social interests, assistance in enhancing the participation of citizens in the affairs of the state and society, as well as in introducing modern mechanisms of public-private partnership.

Uzbekistan Adopts Strict Regulations to Fight COVID-19 (April 2020)
Uzbekistan is among a number of countries to adopt early strict measures to prevent the sharp spread of the virus. On March 27, the movement of people and personal vehicles was restricted to grocery shopping and pharmacy visits. In the first nine days since the rules were introduced, as of April 3, about 2,200 violations of the rules were registered, mostly individuals being outside without face masks. To respond to social media criticisms, and to those who do not welcome the increased police measures, the Ministry of Interior said that patrolling officers have the right to ask the purpose of one’s being in the streets.

Uzbek Lawmakers Legitimize Activities of Volunteers (November 2019)
Deputies of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) of Uzbekistan on November 6, 2019 adopted the Draft Law on Volunteering in three readings. According to the press service of the Lower House of Parliament, the document was submitted to the Senate.

Tashkent hosts the National Forum of Civil Initiatives (July 2019)
Civil Initiatives Forum’s event, “National priorities and prospects for engaging civil society institutions in government and public administration”, was held in Tashkent with representatives of ministries and departments, international organizations, NGOs and civil society institutions. The event was organized to discuss the most pressing issues facing the development of civil society, prepare joint proposals for their resolution, and develop new initiatives aimed at increasing the capacity of non-governmental organizations in state-led reforms to involve civil society institutions in government and public administration.

Burkhanov appointed chairman of “Yuksalish” National Movement (January 2019)
The former director of the “Development Strategy” center Akmal Burkhanov was appointed chairman of “Yuksalish” National Movement. The new movement will be engaged in a voluntary association of citizens, compatriots living abroad, non-governmental non-profit organizations to assist in the implementation of the planned reforms.

Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan and USAID signed a Memorandum of Understanding (June 2018)
On June 8 this year, a ceremony of signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the US Agency for International Development USAID in the field of supporting the strengthening of the rule of law in Uzbekistan.

Law on public control enters into force in Uzbekistan (March 2018)
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the Law “On public control” on April 12, 2018. The law was passed by the Legislative Chamber on November 15 and approved by the Senate on March 29, 2018. The act aims at regulating relations in the field of organization and implementation of public control over the activities of state bodies and institutions.

Concept of tax reform for 2018-2020 published for public discussion (March 2018)
The National Project Management Agency under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan prepared a draft concept on radical reform of the tax system. The document envisages reducing the tax burden, the VAT rate, unification and cancellation of a number of taxes and mandatory payments, as well as measures to improve tax administration.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev orders drafting of new tax code (February 2018)
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on February 13 signed an Organizational Measures to Radically Improve Tax Legislation Decree. The document notes that “the state of affairs in terms of finding additional reserves for increasing the incomes of the central and local budgets, introduction of modern ICTs in the process of tax administration, implementation of the best proven methods of tax legislation and administration” remains unsatisfactory in Uzbekistan.

News Archive

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in historic Uzbekistan visit (May 2017)

Uzbekistan adopts law on social services for population (December 2016)

Uzbekistan elects Shavkat Mirziyoyev as president (December 2016)

Ministry of Justice receives right to check CSOs’ bank accounts (April 2016) (Russian)

Government significantly decreases sizes of administrative penalties for CSOs (April 2016) (Russian)

Law of Uzbekistan on Appeals of Individuals and Legal Entities discussed (February 2015)

Uzbekistan Gears Up to Vote for “Rubberstamp” Parliament (December 2014)

HRW Documents Plight Of Political Prisoners(October 2014)

Situation Dire for NGOs in Uzbekistan (August 2013)

Free political prisoners on Constitution Day (December 2012)

EU representative visits Uzbekistan (December 2012)

CIVICUS intervention in the UPR for Uzbekistan (October 2012)

Uzbekistan “not free” according to internet freedom report (October 2012)

Uzbek rights activist Muhitdinov dies (August 2012)

Watchdog urges EU action over human rights (June 2012)

Uzbekistan: allow independent experts access to prevent persecution, say CIVICUS and Expert Working Group (June 2012)

Activist free but crackdown widening (April 2012)

Uzbekistan touts own civil society model in round table meeting in Tashkent (March 2012)

HRW report highlights concerns that the plight of civil society activists in Uzbekistan is worsening(January 2012)

Release of Mr. Norboy Kholjigitov, ongoing arbitrary detention of eight other HRSU members (October 2011)

AIDS activist released, but other human rights defenders harassed (September 2011)

Internet censorship in Uzbekistan (August 2011)

Employee of British Embassy in Tashkent loses appeal against fine (August 2011)

British Embassy staffer fined by court for contact with activists (July 2011)

Tashkent journalist lost her job because of the trip abroad (July 2011)

Uzbekistan Supreme Court approves closure of Human Rights Watch office (June 2011)

Activists harassed after TV broadcast (April 2011)

Uzbekistan can’t muzzle the messenger (April 2011)

Links between journalists and foreign embassies placed under control (March 2011)

Government shuts down Human Rights Watch office(March 2011)

Uzbek human rights group facing criminal libel suit (March 2011)

No journalist is immune from slander, defamation charges (February 2011)

The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL NGO Law Monitor partner in Uzbekistan, Mr. Gayrat Usmanov.