Building human rights capacity in Uzbekistan
Graphic: Discussions with representatives from the Ombudsman's Office
The APF has worked with the Office of the Ombudsman to develop strategies so it can deliver on its expanded human rights mandate.
As part of widespread democratic reforms that have recently taken place in Uzbekistan, the Office of the Ombudsman has been given stronger powers to promote and protect human rights across the Central Asian nation.
Following negotiations with the national parliament in 2017, the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman was expanded to include, among other things, the right to conduct unannounced inspections of places of detention, the right to submit special reports to parliament and the right to appeal to the courts.
During a capacity assessment program conducted in partnership with UNDP and OHCHR, the APF heard that these changes had strengthened the credibility of the Office of the Ombudsman among parliamentarians, civil society and government agencies.
"To be effective, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) need a sound legal foundation and they must be seen to be credible and legitimate bodies, committed to upholding international human rights standards," said APF NHRI Expert Rosslyn Noonan, who led the two-week capacity assessment between 24 September and 5 October 2018.
"The Office of the Ombudsman is well placed on both counts," she said. "The challenge now is to strengthen the organisation so it can fully implement its mandate to promote and protect human rights and build its reputation further," she said.
Graphic: Rosslyn Noonan talks with a representative from the Ombudsman's Office
One of those challenges – common to all NHRIs – is meeting a heavy human rights workload with limited resources and a small staff.
The Office of the Ombudsman receives more than 9,000 complaints each year. It also has a mandate to monitor conditions for around 44,000 detainees across 58 prisons, in addition to police lock ups, psychiatric institutions and other places of detention in the country.
Further, the Office is also required to review draft legislation, observe some court proceedings, conduct human rights education for state officials and vulnerable groups and engage with regional and international bodies.
More broadly, it has an important but challenging role to play in promoting public understanding and discussion of human rights in a country where freedom of expression has previously been repressed.
Following each capacity assessment, a report is prepared that proposes strategies to strengthen the NHRI as a whole, to develop the capacities of staff individually and collectively, and to make the internal processes of the NHRI more effective and more efficient.
It is a self-assessment process that uses small group discussions and surveys to collect and distil the insights and aspirations of those working within the institution, as well as gather the perceptions of key stakeholders.
Capacity assessments have been conducted with 20 APF member institutions and, in January 2018, with the newly established National Commission for Human Rights of Pakistan.
In the past 12 months, the NHRIs of Malaysia and the Philippines have participated in their second capacity assessment.
Date: 15 October 2018
- Discussions with representatives from the Ombudsman's Office - Otabek Eshmatov/UNDP
- Rosslyn Noonan talks with a representative from the Ombudsman's Office - Otabek Eshmatov/UNDP