Flag of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is located at the crossroads of Central Asia and the Middle East. It was the heart of the ancient Silk Road, the commercial link between Europe and Asia from the 2nd century BC into the mid-15th century. Bukhara, Samarkand, and Tashkent are some of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. The territory of modern Uzbekistan experienced centuries of invasion by nomadic tribes, the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Turkic Khaganate, the Arab Caliphate, and Genghis Khan. Descendants of the Mongol ruler Tamerlane led different regions of Uzbekistan until Russia invaded in the late 19th century. The country was part of the Soviet Union from 1924 until August 31, 1991, when the Republic of Uzbekistan became a free sovereign state. Uzbekistan’s 36 million inhabitants are mostly Sunni Muslim, though the country also has adherents of Shia Islam, Slavic peoples that belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and small populations of Buddhists (mainly ethnic Koreans) and Jews (primarily Ashkenazi and Bukharan).

Languages of Uzbekistan

Languages of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s state language is Uzbek, part of the Turkic group of languages. Russian continues to be used in the commercial sector and in many official documents; however, the government is promoting the Uzbek language and the use of Russian is declining. Tajik, a variety of Persian, is widely spoken in Samarkand and Bukhara, as well as in some communities from Ferghana Valley to Termez. The official languages of the Republic of Karakalpakstan are Uzbek and Karakalpak, a Turkic language similar to Kazakh.

The Legal System

Uzbek law has roots in the customs of the indigenous population as well as the law of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. In the 19th century, the Russians established courts of general jurisdiction that worked alongside shariah courts and customary courts which use the traditional dispute resolution practices of Uzbek nomads. The Soviet regime introduced socialist law as well as justice sector structures based on the civil law model. This legacy has been replaced over time by new legislation and codes of procedure. Uzbekistan adopted its first Constitution on December 8, 1992. After a number of revisions, a new constitution entered into force on May 1, 2023, affirming the country’s commitment to secular, constitutional, and democratic governance.

The Court System

Uzbekistan is administratively divided into 12 provinces, the capitol city of Tashkent, and the Republic of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous entity with its own constitution and justice system. Each has a regional appellate court and first instance (district) courts. Uzbekistan also has a supreme court, constitutional court, economic courts, administrative courts, and military courts.

Huma, the Emblem of Uzbekistan
Supreme Court of Uzbekistan

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest appellate tribunal for civil, criminal, economic, and administrative proceedings. It hears appeals, requests for cassation review, sits as a court of first instance for designated cases, and can consider cases involving newly discovered evidence. The Supreme Court has the right of legislative initiative and can submit draft legislation to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (the lower chamber of parliament). The Supreme Court exercises supervisory authority over the lower courts, the military courts, and the Supreme Court of Karakalpakstan. Its administrative responsibilities include the analysis of judicial practice and statistics as well as oversight of measures to improve the professionalism of judges and court staff. If an Uzbek judge faces criminal charges, prosecution and detention of a judge cannot proceed without the approval of the court.

The court has a chairperson and deputy chairperson. It is organized into a plenum, presidium, and four divisions (called ‘Boards’): administrative, civil, criminal, and economic. The plenum issues binding resolutions to guide lower courts on the application of the law.

The President of Uzbekistan sets the number of Supreme Court justices. There are currently 73 members of the court. Justices are elected by the Senate of the parliament (Oliy Majlis) upon the nomination of the president. The president selects nominees based upon the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council. To be considered for an appointment to the court, candidates must have at least 15 years of experience in the legal profession, including at least seven years as a judge. The terms for justices are the same as for lower court judges: the first term is for 5 years; if re-appointed for a second term, the justice serves 10 years; the next appointment is for life, with a mandatory retirement age of 70.

The Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court is responsible for interpreting the constitution and reviewing the constitutionality of legislation, executive branch decrees, and other “enactments of state authority.” The right to file cases with the Constitutional Court is limited to the president, parliament, the attorney general, and the chairpersons of the supreme court and higher economic court.

The court has seven judges, including one from the Republic of Karakalpakstan. They are elected by the legislature to a five-year term, upon recommendation of the president. In 2021, parliament passed a law to safeguard the court’s independence: Constitutional Court judges cannot be replaced during their tenure except for legally prescribed reasons.

Constitutional Court of Uzbekistan

General Jurisdiction Courts

The provinces, Karakalpakstan, and the city of Tashkent have courts of first instance and appellate jurisdiction. The first instance courts include inter-district, district and city courts; they have separate panels that hear civil, criminal, and some commercial cases. Civil jurisdiction includes administrative crimes (misdemeanors); criminal jurisdiction extends to other misdemeanors, felonies, and requests for warrants involving arrest, detention, and searches. The Provincial (Regional) courts are the courts of appeal and hear first instance disputes for designated cases. They also supervise the activities of the first instance courts, collect data on judicial practice and statistics, and organize certain types of training for judges and court staff.

Military Courts

Military courts have jurisdiction over cases involving personnel of the Ministry of Defense and those serving the military in other capacities. They hear civil and criminal cases as well as cases related to state secrets.

Supreme Judicial Council

The Supreme Judicial Council was established in 2017 to enhance the independence of the judiciary. It is responsible for overseeing the selection of judges as well as judicial conduct and discipline. The Council reviews complaints against judges and allegations of irregularities in the judicial process. It has authority to decide on disciplinary measures, including criminal indictment and removal. The Council’s Judicial Inspectorate for the Protection of Judges' Inviolability and Prevention of Corruption is responsible for investigating allegations of corruption and promulgating anti-corruption measures.

The Council has 21 members who are appointed by the Senate to a five-year term upon the recommendation of the president. No member can serve more than 2 consecutive terms. The majority of members are judges. Seven members are appointed by the President from civil society and academia to unpaid limited terms.

The Council oversees the competitive selection of judicial candidates and advises the president on the selection of presiding judges and their deputies. It has authority to transfer judges to other courts, except within Karakalpakstan. The Council oversees the Higher School of Judges and its mandatory training programs for new judges.

Judicial Selection and Tenure

The Supreme Judicial Council has the authority to appoint all Uzbek judges except those serving on the Supreme Court and the courts of Karakalpakstan. The Council publicizes notice of upcoming competitive exams for filling judicial vacancies. Candidates for the lower courts must be Uzbek citizens, at least 35 years old, and have bachelor degree in law. Nominees for inter-district, district, city court, and territorial military courts must also have at least seven years of legal experience. Provincial level courts require at least ten years of legal practice and two years of judicial experience. Candidates undergo one-year mandatory training at the Higher School of Judges. Judicial appointments are officially made by the Supreme Judicial Council, except for judges serving in the courts of the Republic of Karakalpakstan; they are appointed by the Karakalpakstan parliament based upon proposals from the Supreme Judicial Council. Lower court judges serve an initial five-year term and may be appointed to a second ten-year term. After fifteen years of service, judges are eligible for life tenure, with a mandatory retirement age of 65. However, the president may extend a judge’s retirement age by five years if the judge agrees.

Lay Assessors

People's Assessors 

Uzbekistan does not have a jury system. It does have lay judges called “people’s assessors” who hear criminal trials alongside professional judges. Two assessors sit with a judge during trial and their vote is equal to that of the judge People’s assessors serving on general jurisdiction courts are elected by members of their community or workplace. People's assessors serving on military courts are elected by their military units from among active military personnel. All people’s assessors must be at least 35 years old and serve for two and a half years. In most cases, they serve two weeks a year and retain their salaries during service.



Uzbekistan’s Ombudsman, also referred to as the Human Rights Commissioner, is a parliamentary official elected by the Senate and Legislative Assembly for a five-year term. The ombudsman has responsibility over human rights-related laws and, though technically a government official and accountable to parliament, discharges its functions independently of state institutions. The ombudsman has a broad range of responsibilities related to the protection of citizens’ rights, including bringing to the attention of the president and parliament actions of government entities and the judiciary that merit redress. The ombudsman reviews complaints submitted by citizens, foreign nationals, and stateless persons residing in Uzbekistan who allege a violation of their rights by government officials. It can investigate these complaints and must be granted access to evidence and documents. The ombudsman also participates in working groups responsible for drafting legislation, submits reports to parliament on human rights issues, and may file petitions to the Constitutional Court. Recent initiatives of Uzbekistan’s ombudsman include penal reform, torture prevention, and restructuring of the pardon commission.

Ombudsman of Uzbekistan

Judicial Reforms

In recent years Uzbekistan has undertaken significant justice sector reforms, including strengthening the courts and their independence, updating the codes of procedure, enhancing the rights of the accused, introducing greater transparency in court proceedings and records, and modernizing legal education. The criminal procedure code has been amended to incorporate international human rights standards and elements of adversarial proceedings. For example, the duration of pretrial arrest without a warrant was shortened from 72 hours to 48 hours. Pre-trial detention cannot exceed seven months. The Soviet-era legacy of permitting the court to return weak cases to the prosecution for additional investigation was eliminated and evidence obtained as a result of torture or other legal violations is inadmissible. Uzbekistan is also introducing procedural mechanisms similar to preliminary hearings and plea bargaining for less serious criminal charges. One of the most significant criminal justice reforms has been the limitations introduced on the authority of the prosecution. For example, certain searches and seizures are now subject to judicial review. Safeguards have been introduced to prevent the use of false evidence and there are now clear rules for obtaining witness testimony and statements from the accused. 

Court Information Technology

The Uzbek judiciary introduced electronic case filing in many courts and uses automation and caseload data to randomly assign new cases to judges. Court judgements are now available digitally and there is a national database of judgements.

Legal Aid in Uzbekistan
Legal Aid and Rights of the Accused 

A new law requires Uzbekistan’s Chamber of Advocates (a type of bar association) to implement a process for providing representation to criminal suspects and defendants. The government provides compensation to the appointed attorney. A defense attorney must be assigned as soon as a suspect is detained. If the suspect waives their right to counsel, this waiver must be videotaped. A suspect cannot be interrogated or provide a statement until they are informed of their procedural rights. On the civil justice side, there are new procedures for adjudicating investment and competition disputes, including direct review by the Supreme Court. The Code of Civil Procedure was amended to encourage the more expeditious disposition of cases, with an option for simplified process for minor disputes and time standards. Civil trials must be held within one month of the cases being accepted and there are limited permissible grounds for adjournment. Courts must issue a judgment within five days of the trial concluding and a hearing on appeal must be held within 20 days of the appeal being accepted.