Which political changes would improve Uzbekistan?

UzbekistanHow independent is the judiciary?

Shavkat Mirziyoyev wants to polish Uzbekistan's bad image. Visa exemption - also for German vacationers -, currency reform, tax reform, amnesties for hundreds of political prisoners - these are just some of the projects initiated by the Uzbek president over the past three years.

Big economic ambitions

Shavkat Mirziyoyev's efforts are especially immense in the economy, says Laziz Kudratov, Uzbek Deputy Minister for Investment: "The President has given the country an ambitious task. In 2022, we want to be among the top 20 in the world for the investment climate. We are constantly improving the conditions so that investors feel comfortable with us. The most important thing is that there is the political will to do so in the leadership of the country. "

One of these investors who should feel at home in Uzbekistan is the German truck manufacturer MAN. Ten years ago, the German company founded a joint venture with the Uzbek state-owned automotive company. At the MAN Avto-Uzbekistan plant in Samarkand, an employee explains the individual assembly stations. At one end of a huge hall there are only chassis, at the other there are flashing finished trucks.

Employees in a hall of the MAN company in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Deutschlandradio / Edda Schlager)

Production is running at full speed. Around 10,000 trucks and buses have driven out of the factory gates in recent years, and the number is rising. Because both in Uzbekistan and in neighboring countries, the demand for commercial vehicles is enormous. But how safe are international investors in Uzbekistan, which is known for corruption and arbitrariness? The German MAN Truck and Bus from Munich, which holds 49 percent of the German-Uzbek joint venture, explains in a statement to Deutschlandfunk:

"The legal situation is actually transparent, but there is still a lot of catching up to do in dealing with the law. A lot of reforms are underway here. It is good that there are more opportunities for entrepreneurs if the judiciary can be managed efficiently and independently. The government is striving for a clear change towards an economy that is independent of politics. "

"It's risky for investors"

The Uzbek economic analyst Yuliy Yusupov is much more critical of this. The Uzbek judiciary is not at all prepared for international investors. In addition, there is still a clear lack of will to reform, especially in the case law. He says: "On the one hand, it is risky for investors because there are still no mechanisms to protect their interests. On the other hand, the market is very promising. But we need more administrative reforms, because the current functions of the state are unfortunately not yet radical challenged enough. "

Mustaqillik Square in the Uzbek capital Tashkent (imago / H.Hagedorn)

Old Uzbekistan was a surveillance state with a planned economy. Companies acted on instructions from above. The secret service, in turn, was the most important instrument to control the population. The family of Kadyr Yusupov had to find out that the Uzbek judiciary has not yet given up old habits. Almost exactly a year ago, the then 67-year-old, who suffers from depression, tried to kill himself. In the capital, Tashkent, he threw himself onto the track. Kadyr Yusupov survived seriously injured and was hospitalized. But because the metro in Tashkent is considered a strategically important object to this day, the secret service quickly appeared on the scene. The authorities discovered: Kadyr Yusupov is an ex-diplomat, retired in 2009. On the evening of his suicide attempt, in the hospital, Kadyr Yusupov confessed that he had spied for foreign secret services.

Human rights under pressure

He has been in custody to this day, for almost a year. He is accused of treason. Only recently, Kadyr Yusupov's son, Temur Yusupov, had the opportunity to see his father in court - but only from a distance. He looked bad, he said at home. For Temur Yusupov and the family it is clear: the father is innocent; the confession was obtained under torture. Even the human rights organization Human Rights Watch has intervened: To act against so-called "enemies of the state" in this way is a tactic used by the authorities from Islom Karimov's time. Despite all the progress made in the country - the judiciary and security authorities have so far not improved much. Even Temur Yusupov recognizes the government's will to reform. But he also has a less than hopeful explanation for his father's fate:

"I have a theory: the secret services have to prove to the government that they are working effectively, have to report every day how many spies, extremists, etc. they have detained, to show that they are really still needed. If so, then someone like mine Father makes a confession, that makes the job a lot easier, of course. That means, if my father is punished, someone up there will get a promotion. "

The international hymns of praise for the opening up of Uzbekistan are enormous. But three years after Shavkat Mirziyoyev took office, it is time to ask uncomfortable questions. Only an independent judiciary based on the rule of law will show that Shavkat Mirziyoyev is serious about his reforms. Human rights should then no longer fall by the wayside.