5 June 2013
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic report of Uzbekistan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also reviewed the initial reports of Uzbekistan under two of the Optional Protocols to the Convention: on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Introducing the reports, Akmal Saidov, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, said that Uzbekistan had achieved full access to primary education and a 99.7 per cent literacy rate, a threefold reduction of maternal and infant mortality and increased life expectancy. Budget allocations for health care and education had been augmented and, in 2012, 60 per cent of State’s spending went into funding for the social sphere and social protection measures. The system of integrated services for children and their families was introduced in five provinces and the concept for a juvenile justice system was being developed. All courts had specific judges to deal with juvenile affairs.
Committee Experts took positive note of the impressive economic development in Uzbekistan, but expressed concern about existing poverty levels and widespread inequalities, the inconsistency in the implementation of policies, the low capacity of service delivery institutions, and corruption. Discrimination remained widespread, and the Committee was particularly concerned about gender-based discrimination; gender inequality was significant, particularly in the family context, and in more traditional regions. Other issues raised included the practice of corporal punishment; domestic violence and measures to prevent child abuse and neglect; and the need for strengthening family services in rural and remote areas and programmes to extend foster care and provide support to extended families, to ensure that children were taken care of by their biological families.
Responding to questions raised during the discussion on the report under the Convention on the Right of the Child, the delegation said that Uzbekistan’s policy was geared towards ensuring the best interests of the child and addressed child health, education, integration of children with disabilities, and the right of children to be heard on issues affecting them. The development of a juvenile justice system was in progress; juvenile judges were part of regular courts and all juveniles were kept in separate detention facilities. Domestic violence was addressed mainly through the strengthening of the family in collaboration with mahalla, a self-managing body of citizens that identified families at risk. In order to address child labour, Uzbekistan had prohibited the use of children in cotton picking and an independent observer mission confirmed that no children had been involved in the 2012 harvest.
Concerning the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Experts regretted that criminal legislation did not fully comply with the provisions of the Optional Protocol, particularly concerning the sale of children, the transfer of children and child labour. Experts inquired about further measures to ensure that the Criminal Code complied fully with the provisions of the Optional Protocol, concerning extradition and criminal responsibility.
The delegation said that in 2012, Uzbekistan had amended its Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Responsibility to criminalize acts contained in the Optional Protocol, and recognized the need to further align national legislation with its provisions. Administrative responsibility did not apply to legal entities and Uzbekistan would be looking into this matter. The extradition of criminals was possible on the basis of international norms and domestic legislation; however, a decision concerning extradition under the provisions of the Optional Protocols to the Convention still had to be made.
Concerning the involvement of children in armed conflict, Experts noted that compulsory recruitment into the armed forces was in line with the Optional Protocol, since it was set at the age of 18; and suggested the explicit criminalization of underage recruitment either by the armed forces or by non-State armed groups. Experts inquired about military schools, their curriculum and the age of their students, and about the early identification of children involved in armed conflict who were applying for asylum in Uzbekistan.
The delegation expressed concern about the withdrawal of international security forces from Afghanistan expected in 2014, which might have negative consequences for the stability in the region. The Government was actively working with the International Committee of the Red Cross on the introduction and expansion of international humanitarian law in the curriculum of military schools. Uzbekistan had signed the Rome Statute at the Rome Conference and was working on its ratification.
Olga Khazova, Committee Co-Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in her closing remarks, expressed the hope that Uzbekistan would take into account the Committee’s concluding observations in its future work on the rights of the child.
Hatem Kotrane, Committee Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, noted that Uzbekistan needed to do more in order to identify and bring perpetrators to justice, to establish criminal responsibility for legal entities, and to care more for victims and to further address the issue of extradition.
Gehad Madi, Committee Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, expressed appreciation to the delegation for its understanding of the concerns expressed by the Committee and for its commitment to take them on board.
In his closing remarks, Akmal Saidov, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, said that a broad public campaign about this dialogue would be conducted and a parliamentary hearing about its outcomes would take place. The Government would work with civil society organizations and would link the recommendations of the Committee with those from its Universal Periodic Review, because out of 102 recommendations received, more than 40 of them had been concerned with the rights of the child.
The delegation of Uzbekistan consisted of representatives of the National Human Rights Centre, Ministry of Labour, Council of the Federation of Trade Unions, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 6 June, at 10 a.m. to consider the combined third and fourth periodic report of Slovenia under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/SVN/3-4).
The combined third and fourth periodic report of Uzbekistan under the Convention of the Rights of the Child can be read here (CRC/C/UZB/3-4). The initial report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography can be read here (CRC/C/OPSC/UZB/1), and the initial report under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict can be read here (CRC/C/OPAC/UZB/1).
Statement by the Delegation
AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan, introducing the reports, outlined some of the achievements in Uzbekistan, including full access to primary education, 99.7 per cent literacy rates, a threefold reduction in maternal and infant mortality rates, and increased life expectancy. Over the past five years, 15 important laws had been adopted, among others, on children’s rights, human trafficking, on family businesses, and tobacco and alcohol. Additional measures were geared towards the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations in the areas of juvenile justice, health, and violence against children. A conceptual basis for the establishment of a children’s Ombudsman was in place and a blueprint for the law had been developed. Budget allocations for healthcare and education had increased on an annual basis and, in 2012, 60 per cent of the State’s spending was dedicated to funding the social sphere and social protection measures. Additional measures had been adopted to streamline the institutional basis for children’s rights, such as expanding the activities of the centre for social adaptation of children in order to provide various services for vulnerable children and their families. Coordination in the area of children’s rights had been strengthened through the creation of a number of mechanisms, such as the coordination council attached to the cabinet of the Prime Minister, the working group on justice for children and the coordination council for the protection of motherhood and infancy. The activities of civil society organizations were guaranteed by law and a broad network of non-governmental organizations was in place.
Parliament had opened a resource centre and had adopted more than 10 measures, including hearings on various subjects of relevance to children. The concept for a juvenile justice system was being developed and all courts had appointed specific judges to deal with juvenile affairs. All court hearings involving minors were conducted in closed meetings. Work was underway to gather statistical data from law enforcement agencies on the issue of violence against children. Awareness raising activities concerning the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Conventions of the International Labour Organization, human rights, child labour, monitoring and protection of children’s rights, among others, were being carried out.
Uzbekistan had ratified seven human rights treaties, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty, and two International Labour Organization Conventions on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, among others. Uzbekistan had also developed national plans to implement the recommendations received during its Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council and the recommendations and concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Examination of the Report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Questions by Committee Experts
MARIA HERZOG, Committee Rapporteur and Country Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention, said that despite Uzbekistan’s impressive economic development, hundreds of thousands of people had to seek employment abroad and poverty and inequality existed. Uzbekistan was culturally and ethnically diverse and inclusion and acceptance were crucial, particularly for children. Uzbekistan also counted with a high proportion of children and young people. There were still areas of concern despite the measures adopted by the Government and it seemed that policies were not always consistently implemented and that the capacity of institutions was not sufficient to deliver services consistently. Corruption was a serious problem and negatively affected the delivery of services to children. The Committee took note of the many measures undertaken to support families, but the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these measures had not achieved the required standards.
The Country Rapporteur inquired about the coordination of the implementation of the Convention at national and regional levels, and about the institution responsible and accountable for implementation. Good quality data needed to be collected in order to estimate the impact of measures taken. Systematic gathering of existing data and information was still lacking and published data was often unverifiable. Was data on the situation of groups with special needs available and what barriers impeded the creation of data collection systems? Among other issues raised by Ms. Herzog were the right of children to be heard, including those with disabilities, from rural areas and other vulnerable children; the right of children to information and mechanisms to ensure access to information; the practice of corporal punishment and the plans for its prohibition, including in alternative care settings.
OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention, noted measures taken to ensure children’s interest and to fulfil their needs. Ms. Khazova inquired about the place of the Convention in national legislation, particularly in cases of conflict between domestic legal and the provisions of the Convention. How was the Convention disseminated among children and the public at large? Could non-governmental organizations play a more active role educating children and families regarding the Convention and promoting children’s rights? The Committee’s impression was that non-governmental organizations were still tightly controlled by the State and that the activities of civil society organizations were still rather limited. While progress had been made to ensure that children were heard, however, the understanding of the scope of children’s rights seemed rather limited and this had crucial implications on their enjoyment. Discrimination remained widespread and the Committee was particularly concerned about gender-based discrimination. Gender inequality was significant, particularly in the family context, and in more traditional regions and adversely affected girls and their prospects in life.
Committee Experts inquired about Uzbekistan’s national human rights institution, its compliance with the Paris Principles, about the challenges in establishing a special department within this institution to deal with children’s rights, and accessibility to the institution to lodge confidential complaints. Another Expert asked the delegation to comment on the ratification of international instruments, would Uzbekistan consider the ratification of the third Optional Protocol to the Convention, the Hague Convention and the Rome Statute? What measures were being undertaken to ensure that the laws drafted in 2006 would be enacted?
The Committee inquired about the amendment made to the Family Code to raise the women’s age of marriage to 18 years of age, bringing it in par with that of men. Was it possible to appeal against sentences which had not taken into account the best interests of the child? What about the birth registration system in the country and the removal of fees to ensure that all children, particularly poor and marginalized, were registered?
Committee Experts also asked the delegation to comment on the limited functioning of civil society organizations in the country and about the role of the Children’s Parliament. Questions also touched upon how freedom of religion, faith and belief were exercised and measures to prevent statelessness. In 2006 the Committee had recommended that Uzbekistan adopted legislation on domestic violence and measures to comply with international obligations in terms of a definition of torture, what was being done in this regard? What mechanisms and safeguards were in place to ensure that the best interests of the child served as the guiding principle for the creation of policies and measures to protect children?
Response by the Delegation
Uzbekistan was a country of children and young people. Among its 30 million inhabitants, 42 per cent were children under the age of 18 and 64 per cent were young people up to the age of 30. Its multi-confessional and multilingual nature and its location on the Silk Road had caused the mixing of many ethnicities, cultures and languages. Uzbekistan was historically distinct and valued its diversity. International treaties had priority over the domestic legislation and, in the vast majority of cases judges, referred to national laws and references to the Convention were made particularly in the decisions of the High Court. In cooperation with the United Nations Children Fund, judges were being trained in the application of the Convention. Coordination of the implementation of the provisions of the Convention took place at parliamentary, executive and judicial levels. A special committee within Parliament was in charge of preparing draft laws, the ratification of international instruments and the preparation of parliamentary hearings related to the rights of children.
Uzbekistan’s policy was geared towards ensuring the best interests of the child in all activities, both in the private and public sectors, and a number of executive, judicial and regional bodies and mechanisms were involved in the system. The best interest of the child was upheld through legal, educational, economic and other measures; and children were not only subjects but active participants. This principle was guaranteed through various programmes, which were supplemented by additional measures to ensure children’s health, better education, integration of children with disabilities, mechanisms to seek the views of children on issues affecting them. Uzbekistan counted with a Children’s Parliament and annual forums for children had taken place every year since 2008, in which children were actively involved in discussing various issues. For children without parental care, legislation was in place to ensure their right to voice their opinion and be heard in issues affecting them.
According to the statistical data, the number of children with disabilities under the age of 16 was 84,000 in 2012 and varied across the regions; among those, 35,000 lived in cities and 39,000 were girls. The legal definition of a child with disabilities in Uzbekistan was in full conformity with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the ratification of this Convention would be a gradual step-by-step process that would ensure that Uzbekistan was able to implement its provisions. The Convention had been translated into the Uzbek language and was being disseminated. The Government was considering ratifying the Convention with reservations because there were some economic implications for which it was not yet ready. The ratification of the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Right of the Child was under consideration.
Questions by Experts
MARIA HERZOG, Committee Rapporteur and Country Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention, noted that support services for families in need and vulnerable families, particularly in rural and remote areas, were very poor and asked what was being done to strengthen family services, to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to address domestic violence. Was there data available on the extent of family problems, such as abuse and neglect? Almost 4,000 children lived in institutions, many of them with disabilities, and their rights were often violated; what plans and programmes were in place to extend foster care and provide support to extended families to ensure that children were taken care of by their biological families?
OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention, asked about polygamous marriages and child’s rights in such instances, with the view to ensure the equal legal status of children and non-discrimination. Domestic violence was a huge problem which was not being addressed, partly because it was considered a family problem and authorities did not interfere; even though women were mainly the victims of this violence, the phenomenon was also inevitably linked to violence against children. Sexual education was a taboo, went against cultural norms and values, and was not approached. The problem of children working in cotton fields was thing of the past and this represented a great achievement; however, teachers were often sent to work in cotton fields during the school year and this affected the access and quality of education for these children.
Regarding child labour, Experts noted the ongoing practice of hiring children to work in the cotton fields and wondered about the position of the State on the issue, considering that it represented a violation of children’s rights. The International Labour Organization had made several requests to the Government to monitor the cotton harvest season in order to ensure that children were not involved but attended school. Legislation guaranteeing children’s rights included the right to play and leisure but most of these activities were organized collectively. Were minority languages taught in schools and were people from minority groups trained as teachers?
Concerning children with disabilities, the delegation was asked to explain the procedure to determine and assess disability, and measures to promote a positive image of children with disabilities. The delegation was also required to provide information about plans to move children with disabilities from institutions; and to explain measures to bring inclusive education forward, for example, adjusting buildings and ensuring appropriate training for teachers.
Committee Experts also inquired about the high rates of infant and maternal mortality and the poor quality of pre- and post-natal services; the intention to change the way maternal deaths were termed and related data was collected; and about breastfeeding practices and the prohibition on the advertising of infant formula. About 40 per cent of poor families lacked access to health services, due to hidden costs and fees charged in the health facilities.
The number of street children seemed to be on the rise and they were often involved in prostitution, begging or theft. Girls living in the street reportedly suffered from sexual abuse when held in detention. What was being done to prevent children from living in the street and to ensure their protection and rehabilitation? Other issues raised by the Committee included the hidden costs of education, discrimination against refugee children concerning the right to education, challenges experienced by children living in families where one parent was a migrant worker, the identification of children at risk of violence, and the development of preventive social services.
MARIA HERZOG, Committee Rapporteur and Country Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention, asked whether children and professionals in Uzbekistan had an opportunity to watch the webcast from this session and whether there was unrestricted access to the Internet in Uzbekistan.
OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention, said that Uzbekistan was in the process of creating a juvenile justice system and asked whether specialized juvenile courts would be established as well.
Response by the Delegation
The delegation said that the people in Uzbekistan were following this session as well as the Universal Periodic Review, which had taken place in April 2013. Concerning refugees and the implementation of obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Right of the Child, Uzbekistan strictly applied provisions regarding the rights and freedoms guaranteed to foreigners. Most refugees, including children, came from Afghanistan. In 2006 there had been 762 refugee children, 224 in 2008, and 119 had been registered in 2009. Children refugees had free access to education and health care.
Historically, Uzbekistan’s national policy had been geared towards the peaceful coexistence of people from diverse ethnic groups. The language, customs and religions of all ethnicities were respected. All citizens were equal before the law and the creation of parties promoting national social or religious hatred was prohibited. The equal treatment of all religions and customs was reflected in the legislation on national language. All laws were published in the languages of the citizens of Uzbekistan and education was currently conducted in seven languages from which students could freely choose. A network of cultural centres all over the country provided Sunday classes and a place where people could study their native language, culture and customs. Newspapers were published in eight languages.
A number of measures had given a new impetus to the fight against illegal movement and non-return of children, including the adoption of legislation on trafficking in persons, a national action plan to combat trafficking for the period 2008-2020, and the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Juvenile judges were part of regular courts and there was ongoing preparatory work for the establishment of a juvenile justice system. Lawyers, psychologists and legal representatives of a minor must be present in the proceedings, and all juveniles were kept in separate detention facilities. Uzbekistan did not have sufficient resources to establish specialized juvenile courts.
Uzbekistan had adopted a decision to improve the functioning of its Statistical Committee and to align its data collection system with the requirements of the United Nations. In 2008, legislation on the Ombudsman had been adopted and this institution was now a key link in protection of human rights. The legal age of marriage was 17 years for girls and 18 for boys; and there was a draft law before Parliament which proposed to increase girls’ age of marriage to 18. If a girl was pregnant, local authorities could decrease the age of marriage so that the child could be born within a family.
Contraceptives were provided free of charge and women had free choice concerning contraceptive methods; rates of use of contraceptives had increased among women aged 20 to 30. A special programme to promote breastfeeding had been developed and, over the past ten years, 80 per cent of children under six months of age were breastfed. A programme to promote a healthy lifestyle had been developed and implemented in schools. State’s policy covered gender equality, 48 per cent of all employees were women, and women also occupied important posts. Polygamy was prohibited by the law and children born outside of marriage enjoyed full rights.
An institute for sociological studies had been established, and it conducted surveys and collected evidence to develop children and family policies. Strengthening the family constituted the main strategy to address the issue of domestic violence. A body for citizens’ self-management, called mahalla, worked with citizens and families on a range of issues, including on the identification of families at risk of domestic violence. Uzbekistan had ratified two International Labour Organization Conventions, N° 138 on the minimum age for admission to employment and work and N° 182 on the worst forms of child labour, and had developed national action plans for their implementation. In 2012, an independent observer mission conducted by the United Nations Children Fund confirmed that no children had been involved in the cotton harvest.
The principle for determining and registering persons with disabilities corresponded to international standards. In the case of children, it was carried out by a relevant medical facility and was based on the extent to which disability imposed limitations on daily activities. Monthly payments were provided to children with disabilities; for those under the age of 16, on the basis of medical documentation, and for children with disabilities above the age of 16, on the basis of documentation from the work commission. There were 2,500 children in institutions and 700 were with foster families; two children’s villages had been created and a network of centres providing material support had also been created. Children with disabilities and specific educational needs had access to specialized schools, special schools for children without parental care, integrated education and individual homeschooling.
The development of the non-governmental sector and civil society was a priority. The Government had created a special entity to promote the development of civil society. Non-governmental organizations themselves had created their own coordinating body and its relations with the State were based on the principle of social partnership.
Follow-up Discussion on the Report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
In a series of follow up questions and comments, Experts noted that the Government did not overly-rely on non-governmental organizations for service delivery and that it maintained the right to regulate their work. There was a lot of pressure on civil society organizations to join Government-sponsored non-governmental organizations. Where was there room for improvement in the collaboration between the Government and civil society organizations? Experts also inquired about services provided to families in order to tackle and to prevent domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and the process of making the decision to remove children from their families.
Uzbekistan had included the concept of torture in its legislation and the Government was also considering the issue of child labour, underlining the responsibility of global firms involved in cotton trade. No one thought about child labour when buying cheap Uzbek cotton; but the rights of the child must be given priority over economic issues and Uzbekistan refused to politicize the right of children. Legislation also prohibited the employment of child labour by their parents.
The 2010 Presidential blueprint had provided a way forward for the development of civil society organizations and the task now was to look at the quality of non-governmental organizations and their role in strengthening society. The Government had provided millions in grants, including on socio-economic activities, children and women’s rights, persons with disabilities, and human rights defenders. Regarding the way forward for future collaboration with civil society, the Government was considering increasing the role of non-governmental organizations in Parliamentary monitoring and the development of a human rights culture.
Families facing a difficult financial situation received Governmental support to prevent the abandonment of children. Legislation included provisions concerning the establishment of guardianships and the placement of children in institutions, fostering and adoption. Alternative forms of care were being developed by the Government and centres for social adaptation had been established for children and women in difficult situations, including those who were victims of domestic violence. The families of children with different problems, for example, children in conflict with the law, also received support. Social assistance was also provided to low income families with children and self-governing bodies were tasked with the identification of families in need.
Examination of the Reports under the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
Questions by Experts
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Report of Uzbekistan under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said that Uzbekistan’s criminal legislation did not fully comply with the provisions of the Optional Protocol. New articles had been introduced in the Criminal Code, for example, concerning the reproduction or importation of child pornography materials, but were not sufficient in the areas related to the sale of children, the transfer of children and child labour. What further measures were being considered to ensure that the Criminal Code fully complied with the provisions of the Optional Protocol? The Criminal Code did not talk about the criminal responsibility of legal entities for crimes under the Optional Protocol. The information provided in the report and in the replies in the list of issues was not sufficient to comprehend the situation concerning extradition.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Report of Uzbekistan under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, appreciated the fact that the minimum age for compulsory recruitment into the armed forces, set at the age of 18, was in line with the Optional Protocol. The Committee wanted to see the explicit criminalization of underage recruitment, either by the armed forces or by non-State armed groups. The geopolitical context of Uzbekistan and its location in a region marred with armed conflict meant that armed groups that operated outside its territory might be interested in recruiting Uzbek and other children. What was the age of children enrolled in military schools and what was the curriculum of these schools? The Committee also wished to see provisions guaranteeing extraterritorial extradition for crimes and offences under the Optional Protocol and the removal of the double criminality clause. What procedures were in place to ensure early identification of children involved in armed conflict who were applying for asylum in Uzbekistan?
RENATE WINTER, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for the Report of Uzbekistan under the Optional Protocols to the Convention, noted the adoption of a National Action Plan but remarked that the data provided was not concise and sufficiently disaggregated. Were there mechanisms in place to ensure that children under the age of 16 were no longer used in cotton picking in all regions? Early marriage was still practiced in remote and rural areas and by very traditional groups and individuals; what was being done to educate the population about the negative consequences of this practice? What other protective measures were available for children at risk in addition to institutionalization? Concerning the involvement of children in armed conflict, Ms. Winter raised the issue of illicit transfers of arms and ammunition by criminals in the border areas, who were used to arming children, and asked the delegation to provide additional information. Military schools’ curriculum contained voluntary courses in peace education and conflict prevention, could these courses become compulsory?
Another Expert asked about penalties for sexual exploitation of children, including imprisonment, and whether Uzbekistan was considering ratifying the third Optional Protocol to the Convention, which established an individual complaint mechanism.
Response by the Delegation
Significant amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Responsibility had been made in 2012 in order to criminalize acts contained in the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The delegation agreed with the Committee that there should be no national interpretation of the Convention and its protocols. A thorough analysis of articles of the Convention and the domestic law demonstrated that differences did exist, particularly with regard to the possession of child-pornographic materials. There was the need to further align its Criminal Code with the provisions of the Optional Protocol, though Uzbekistan’s laws criminalized all activities mentioned under the Optional Protocol. Administrative responsibility did not apply to legal entities and Uzbekistan would be looking into this matter. The extradition of criminals was possible on the basis of international legal norms and on the basis of domestic legislation; Uzbekistan had more than 20 agreements with other countries for the provision of legal assistance. Whether extradition was possible under the provisions of the two Optional Protocols had to be decided.
Concerning the involvement of children in armed conflict, Uzbekistan was concerned about the withdrawal of international security forces from Afghanistan in 2014, which might have negative consequences for the stability in the region. Most refugees in Uzbekistan came from Afghanistan and there were 150 of them in the country today. No child refugees had been involved in armed conflict.
Uzbekistan had raised children’s minimal age of employment to 16 years of age, which represented a major achievement; considering how the educational system was structured and its 12 years of compulsory schooling, all children up to the age of 18 were in school. Raising the minimum age of employment to 18 would have general socio-economic consequences and Uzbekistan would require additional monitoring mechanisms. Labour legislation contained direct provisions prohibiting children under the age of 18 from working in hazardous conditions, at night or overtime. Labour inspectors imposed legally prescribed sanctions to those breaking this law.
The Tashkent centre for victims of human trafficking provided medical, legal, social and psychological rehabilitation and no children victims had been treated so far. Recently 37 minors had been acknowledged as victims of trafficking in persons; they were children from very poor families and exposed to parental neglect. Work with victims of trafficking in persons was done at national and regional levels, through centres for social adaptation run by non-governmental organizations.
Labour inspectors monitored the implementation of collective agreements between workers and employers and the implementation of the International Labour Organization Conventions concerning child labour. The working conditions of those under the age of 18, especially during the cotton harvest, received particular attention during inspections.
Criminal elements could make use of the illegal arms trades, but Uzbekistan had placed an arms embargo on Afghanistan. The situation in and around Afghanistan posed security risks for Uzbekistan and the Government was actively working with the International Committee of the Red Cross on the introduction and expansion of international humanitarian law in the curriculum of military schools. Uzbekistan had signed the Rome Statute at the Rome Conference and was working on its ratification. Month-long military courses were organized for citizens over the age of 18. Several non-governmental organizations were active in military and patriotic training and organized summer and sports camps for children under the age of 18, including military and sport camps. There were no secondary military schools in Uzbekistan and military academies were higher education institutions which trained military specialists.
OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Expert and the Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Convention on the Right of the Child, said that the discussion had been sometimes emotional and proved that the questions asked were relevant and topical. Ms. Khazova expressed the hope that Uzbekistan would take into account the Committee’s concluding observations in their future work on the rights of the child.
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Report of Uzbekistan under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, noted that the discussion had been fruitful. Uzbekistan had made progress in bringing its legislation in line with the Optional Protocol, and should do more to identify and to bring perpetrators to justice, to establish criminal responsibility for legal entities, increase care for victims and further address the issue of extradition.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the report of Uzbekistan under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, expressed appreciation to the delegation for understanding the concerns expressed by the Committee and for their commitment to take them on board. The dialogue had been constructive and had been conducted in a spirit of mutual understanding.
AKMAL SAIDOV, Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre, highly valued the proactive approach of the Committee and its understanding concerning the implementation of the Convention in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan shared the concerns of the Committee, and said that a broad public campaign about this dialogue would be conducted and a parliamentary hearing about its outcomes would take place. The Government would work with civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations because the entire society had to pull its weight to ensure that the rights of the children were protected. Furthermore, Uzbekistan would link the recommendations of the Committee with those from its Universal Periodic Review recommendations, because out of 102 recommendations received, more than 40 of them concerned the rights of the child.
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and for the concluding remarks.
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