Concerns brought to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur during his visit:
(a) Selection and appointment of judges: the criteria and the procedure for the selection of candidate judges should be reviewed. The procedure for the selection and appointment of judges should be based on objective criteria previously established by law or by the Supreme Judicial Council. Decisions should be based solely on merit, having regard to the qualifications, skills and capacities of the candidates, as well as to their integrity, sense of independence and impartiality. Decisions on the appointment of judges should be taken solely by the Supreme Judicial Council, without the involvement of the executive branch. If judges continue to be formally appointed by the Head of State, such an appointment should be made on the basis of the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council that the President follows in practice.
(b) Security of tenure: security of tenure constitutes an essential guarantee against interference by the executive or other appointing authority in a discretionary or arbitrary manner. Following the recent changes in the regulation on the duration of tenure, the initial five-year term can now be extended to ten years, and subsequently turned into unlimited, life-long term of office. This is a positive step in the right direction. Gradually, and on the basis of an evaluation carried out in accordance with clear criteria established by law, judges should acquire security of tenure. Uzbekistan should establish clear criteria and procedure for reappointing judges, so as to ensure that they are duly evaluated.
(c) Training of judges: the establishment of the Higher Judicial School under the Supreme Judicial Council in lieu of the Centre for Advanced Training of Lawyers, which was subject to the autority of the Ministry of Justice, is a positive step in the reform of the judicial training system. In order to strengthen the autonomy of the High Judicial School, it is recommended that the activities, as well as the content and arrangements for the initial and continuous training of judges be regulated by law or, alternatively, by resolution of the Supreme Judicial Council. In particular, the development of human rights education programmes for judges is essential to ensuring a solid foundation for democracy and the rule of law.
(d) Role of chairpersons: the extremely broad powers that court chairpersons have in relation to a wide range of matters pertaining to the selection, promotion, evaluation and discipline of judges has an adverse impact on judicial independence. In particular, court chairpersons should not be vested with powers concerning judges’ salaries and bonuses. The current procedure for appointment of court chairpersons by political authorities should also be reviewed, so as to ensure that chairpersons be elected by their peers through an objective procedure clearly established by law or by regulation of the Supreme Judicial Council.
(e) Disciplinary proceedings: the existing grounds for initiating disciplinary proceedings against judges are too general and broad, in particular the one referring to “violation of the rules of ethical judicial conduct”. The grounds and procedure for conducting disciplinary proceedings against judges should be regulated by law, and the responsibility for carrying out such proceedings should be vested in an independent authority composed primarily of judges, such as a judicial council or a court. Court chairpersons should be divested of their power to initiate disciplinary proceedings.
(f) Supreme Judicial Council: the procedure for the selection and appointment of members of the Supreme Judicial Council is not fully consistent with international legal standards. In particular, the current discretionary power of the President to appoint the Secretary and seven members of the Supreme Judicial Council should be revoked. While it is commendable that the current composition of the Council includes a majority of judges, it is recommended that non-judge members include legal experts (e.g. lawyers, academics, civil society representatives with an acknowledge reputation and experience in the field of law) without any connection with the legislative or executive branches of power. Judge-members of the Council should be nominated and appointed by their peers, while the selection and appointment of lay members should be preferably entrusted to a non-political body.