The use of various dispute resolution methods in different countries is intertwined with the culture and religion of a particular nation, and Uzbekistan is not an exclusion to this rule. For centuries in Uzbekistan, people have sought resolution by referring their disputes to an elder person (aksakal) of their community.
This Uzbek tradition of conciliation continues and is now undertaken by the local Mahalla Councils. Mahalla is a unique social element of Uzbek society. It is a territorial unit that includes households that are situated on the same street or quarter. Mahalla Councils are headed by a chairman, elected by the residents of Mahalla. These councils, among other functions, manage small disputes between residents of the neighborhood to maintain peace and good relations among the neighbors. Sometimes aksakals may deal with family disputes as well.
Mechanisms similar to mediation were embedded in the procedural legislation of Uzbekistan. Both the civil procedure and economic procedure codes contain the term “amicable (or settlement) agreement,” basically meaning the peaceful settlement of disputes at any stage of the proceedings.
In its essence, the settlement agreement has the same purpose as mediation and in fact, settlement agreements are one of the essential elements of Uzbekistan’s civil and economic procedural laws. An entire chapter of the civil procedure code is dedicated to the process of settlement agreements.
The major difference between a settlement agreement and mediation is the absence of facilitation in the settlement agreement process. Even though procedural law requires the court to undertake measures to conciliate the parties and facilitate a settlement of the dispute at all stages of the proceedings, these measures and facilitation methods are not established in law or practice.
Thus even in the Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Economic Court of Uzbekistan, when applying the economic procedural code to approve settlement agreements, the Supreme Economic Court simply instructed the lower courts that a decision regarding the acceptance of the claim and preparation of the case for trial must contain the court’s proposal to the parties to resolve the dispute peacefully, but did not include a thorough description of the “measures to conciliate the parties” or provide the lower courts with instructions on the facilitation of settlement agreements. The law established the existence, possibility and the form of the settlement agreement, but not the procedure necessary to help achieve it. This formal status of the settlement agreement then created the need for further development and adoption of facilitation procedures.
As a result, the Law on Mediation was adopted in Uzbekistan in July 2018 but will go into force only starting January 1, 2019. The law was developed pursuant to the political and social reforms introduced by the new president of the country and his team. The task of developing the law on mediation was imposed by the President upon the following stakeholders: the Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court of Uzbekistan, Supreme Economic Court, General Prosecutor’s Office and Chamber of Commerce of Uzbekistan. This task was formulated in the Presidential Decrees dedicated to 1) a program on comprehensive measures for the furtherance of the reforms in the judiciary, strengthening of the guarantees of reliable protection of the rights and freedoms of the citizens and 2) the state program for the implementation of the Strategy of Action for the five priority development areas of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021.
By Anvar Aslanov and Sherzodbek Masadikov, Senior Fellows-Uzbekistan, Weinstein International Foundation