Political situation Reform drive following long period of stagnation
According to its constitution, Uzbekistan is a presidential democracy with a bicameral parliament. In truth, however, the country's political course is determined in autocratic fashion by the State President. Political opposition is not permitted. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly are all restricted; access to the internet and social media is state-regulated. The 2020 World Press Freedom Index (External link) compiled by the non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders ranks Uzbekistan 156th out of 180 countries evaluated.
The people of Uzbekistan play no part in political decision-making processes. So far, not one of the parliamentary or presidential elections held in the post-Soviet era has been considered as either free or fair by the international community.
Thanks to the wide-ranging package of reforms introduced by President Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan's human rights situation is gradually improving. Since late 2016, large numbers of political prisoners have been released and contacts with international human rights organisations intensified. Yet there are still some areas in need of improvement.
One area in which the rule of law falls short is the country's judiciary, which does not operate independently. Court rulings are frequently politically motivated and existing legal provisions are often not enforced.
Uzbekistan is working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on preventing child and forced labour in the cotton harvest. Some considerable progress has already been made. The ILO concluded, for example, that no children or young people were involved in the 2018 cotton harvest. In 2017, Uzbekistan received its first ever visit from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Society is rigorously controlled by the state. An active civil society, such as exists in western Europe, is unknown in Uzbekistan. For one thing, there is no tradition or culture of civil society activity; for another, independent political activity is often prohibited by the government, since it is regarded as a threat to the stability of the country. Yet here, too, change is taking place. International non-governmental organisations are able to operate more freely than before. And the government is openly addressing the country's failings.