Today, the ICJ, the Regional Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for Central Asia and the Nationwide Movement “Yuksalish” are holding an Expert Discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on access to justice for economic, social and cultural rights (ESC rights) in Uzbekistan and comparative experiences from Europe and Central Asia.
The Fifth Expert Discussion, Access to justice in times of COVID-19, will address issues including access to a lawyer and access to court.
The event will present an opportunity to national and international experts, including lawyers, judges, members of UN human rights bodies, civil society, and other experts to debate questions of fundamental importance for ensuring access to justice and the protection of human rights in Uzbekistan.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put new challenges before justice institutions around the world, including in Uzbekistan. These measures affected access to lawyers and courts judiciary therefore impeding full access to justice. This event will present an opportunity to discuss the solutions of States from around the globe about their responses to the pandemic. We believe that sharing experience among judges, lawyers and international experts from around the world will enrich the National debate and give an impulse for further development and the independence of the judiciary in Uzbekistan” said Akmal Burkhanov, Chairperson of the Nationwide movement “Yuksalish”.
“The pandemic became the so-called “maturity test” for the justice system and many of the urgent issues should be resolved in the light of the anti-COVID-19 measures taken. Therefore, I would also see the pandemic as an opportunity. The opportunity for transforming, changing for the better the functioning of traditional courts, provided that a high quality of justice and respect for individual rights are at the forefront of all changes,” pointed Eduards Stiprais, EU Ambassador to Uzbekistan.
Ryszard Komenda, Regional Representative of the UN Office for Human Rights for Central Asia quoted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who stated that “in order to cope effectively with the pandemic states may need to introduce certain restrictions on the exercise of certain human rights, however, such restrictions need to be necessary, proportionate, and non-discriminatory”. Mr. Komenda noted that “the impact of the regulations on lockdown affected the day-to-day work of courts and lawyers. From the perspective of international human rights standards, it is crucial that the right of individuals to an operative and independent judicial system, in particular the right to an effective remedy, habeas corpus guarantees and access to a lawyer of one’s choosing are strictly adhered to”.
“Our fifth Expert Discussion on economic and social rights, is devoted to addressing the major problems people have in getting access to justice and defending their rights during the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sam Zarifi, the ICJ Secretary General.
“The ICJ has documented how around the world the pandemic has severely affected peoples’ right to health, to food, to water, to education and to sanitation, and we have also seen the additional difficulties facing people with lower income and access to the levers of power.”
“We aim to discuss how international law and national best practices can help the judiciary and legal system alleviate some of the human rights issues arising from Covid-19 in Uzbekistan, and maybe even build a more responsive and accountable system after the pandemic.”
The Expert Discussions on ESC rights aim to raise awareness about the implementation of international law and standards on ESC rights by the national justice system, to facilitate access to justice in relation to ESC rights and promote effective use of international law on ESC rights at the national level. Each Expert Discussion is attended by international and national experts.
The first discussion was held in September 2018 on international standards in labour rights. The second meeting, held in December 2018, concerned judicial application of the principle of non-discrimination; the third meeting, held in March 2019, was dedicated to the rights of people with disabilities, and the forth meeting, held in October 2020, discussed the right to adequate housing in Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1995.
The Expert Discussions are organized by the ICJ within the framework of the “Advancing Civil Society in Promoting economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) Standards in Uzbekistan (ACCESS)” Project funded by the EU through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
Dilfuza Kurolova, ICJ Legal consultant, t: +998 90 9050099 ; e: dilfuza.kurolova(a)icj.org