In January 2018 the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted three new procedural codes setting forth rules for reviewing disputes. These new codes (“Codes”), adopted as part of the reform of Uzbekistan's judicial system initiated in 2017 by Uzbekistan's new President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, are the following:
- the Civil Procedure Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan (the “CPC”);
- the Economic Procedure Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan (the “EPC”);
- the Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Administrative Proceedings (the “CAP”).
General description of the new Codes
These Codes entered into force on 1 April 2018, after which the existing Civil Procedure Code and Commercial Procedure Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan ceased to be effective.
The new Codes formalize the division of jurisdictions between (i) courts of general jurisdiction and (ii) the economic (commercial) and administrative courts. The administrative courts commenced activity on 1 June 2017 as part of the reform of Uzbekistan's judicial system.
Broadly speaking, the CPC regulates the procedure for the review of disputes by courts of general jurisdiction (mainly civil disputes involving individuals). The EPC is applied by economic courts when reviewing commercial disputes (disputes between private parties relating to business activity), and the CAP is applied by administrative courts when reviewing administrative disputes (disputes between private parties and state authorities).
The EPC and the CAP are the most important new Codes for disputes involving businesses. The key provisions of these Codes are summarized below.
Economic Procedure Code
Compared to the previous Commercial Procedure Code, the EPC regulates the review of commercial disputes involving foreign individuals and companies in much greater detail.
In particular, the EPC sets forth the categories of disputes that are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of Uzbek courts. Such disputes include those involving the privatization of state-owned property. As a result, it is no longer clear whether dispute resolution clauses calling for arbitration or for jurisdiction of foreign courts may be included in privatization agreements with the Republic of Uzbekistan.
In addition, the EPC includes a separate chapter regulating the recognition and enforcement of foreign court judgments and arbitral awards. Pursuant to this chapter, foreign judgments and awards will be recognized and enforced by economic courts in Uzbekistan only where doing so is provided for (i) by relevant international treaties; or (ii) by the laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
This chapter also regulates the procedure for processing applications for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitral awards, as well as grounds for rejecting such applications.
Code on Administrative Proceedings
The CAP sets forth a separate procedure for the consideration of disputes with government authorities, including disputes over decisions (omissions) by government authorities (such as tax, customs, antimonopoly and other government authority decisions).
The jurisdiction of administrative courts includes disputes initiated by local companies as well as foreign companies and individuals carrying out their activities in Uzbekistan (unless otherwise provided for by international treaties).
Although the main principles for the consideration of disputes by administrative courts are consistent with those for the consideration of economic (commercial) disputes by the economic courts, the CAP sets forth some significant rules for considering such cases. For example, the CAP places the burden of proof that the decisions of government authorities are legitimate on those authorities.
Representation in courts
The Codes set forth several new restrictions on representation of parties in Uzbek courts. For example, the Codes provide that only licensed local advocates may represent individuals and companies in Uzbekistani courts. In addition to advocates, companies may be represented by their employees in court.
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In general, the adoption of the Codes may be viewed as a positive step by the Uzbek authorities – one that is aimed at improving Uzbekistan's judicial system.