Uzbekistan is bound under international law to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all persons within its territory regardless of gender. Uzbekistan is obligated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)36 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and to provide equal protection before the law. The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Uzbekistan in 1996, requires state parties to pursue a policy of eliminating discrimination and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with this obligation.37
State responsibility for human rights violations is widely recognized to include not only acts by states and their agents, but a state's failure to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate, and prosecute violations by private actors. States are accountable for consistent patterns of discriminatory enforcement of criminal law. A state is therefore in violation of international law when it persistently fails to address abuses committed against women, whomever the perpetrator. This includes violations to the security of the person.
The 1988 Velázquez-Rodríguez case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights articulated the principle that states must exercise "due diligence" to prevent human rights violations by private actors.38 The court found that a state must take "reasonable steps to prevent human rights violations committed by private actors and to use the means at its disposal to carry out a serious investigation of violations committed within its jurisdiction, to identify those responsible, to impose the appropriate punishment and to ensure the victim adequate compensation."39
CEDAW provides standards for governments on meeting their obligation to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. It contains the most authoritative and explicit protections against sex discrimination in the public and private spheres of women's lives. Through its ratification of CEDAW, Uzbekistan assumed the obligation to protect women from sexual and other forms of gender-based violence perpetrated by state agents and private actors alike. As a party to CEDAW, Uzbekistan is obliged to "pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women" (CEDAW, article 2) including "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women...on a basis of equality of men or women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms..."(CEDAW, article 11).
However, the convention did not directly address domestic violence. In 1985, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on domestic violence based on a recommendation from the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 40 ECOSOC in 1986 recognized "violence in the family" as a "grave violation of the rights of women."41
In 1992 the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women addressed the issue of violence against women in its General Recommendation 19.42 The committee stated: "Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women's ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men." It infringes, among others, upon the rights to: liberty and security of the person; equal protection under the law; equality in the family; and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The committee further stated: "Under general international law and specific human rights covenants, States may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence, and for providing compensation."
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the U.N General Assembly in December 1993, is a comprehensive statement of international standards with regard to the protection of women from violence. The declaration denounces violence in the home as "a violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of women."43 It affirms that "States should condemn violence against women ...[and] exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons."44 It sets out a series of judicial, legislative, administrative and educational steps that a state should take to meet their obligation under international law to bring violence against women to an end.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, in her first report, addressed the issue of state responsibility for domestic violence. She wrote: "In the context of norms recently established by the international community, a State that does not act against crimes of violence against women is as guilty as the perpetrators. States are under a positive duty to prevent, investigate and punish crimes associated with violence against women."45
The due diligence standard is not limited to legislation and criminalization, but includes an obligation to provide and enforce sufficient remedies for those whose physical integrity has been assaulted. The Special Rapporteur noted that due diligence encompasses a "whole range of approaches, including training of state personnel, education, `demystifying domestic violence' and other measures, each of which if found an effective tool of preventing domestic violence, the state is obligated to adopt and apply with due diligence."46
36 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976. Uzbekistan ratified the ICCPR in 1995. The ICCPR specifically prohibits sex discrimination in three articles. ICCPR, arts. 2(1), 3 & 26.
37 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, G.A. res. 34/180, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc. A/34/46, entered into force Sept. 3, 1981, article 2.
38 Veláquez Rodríguez v. Honduras, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (series C), July 29, 1988, No. 4. The Court stated: "An illegal act which violated human rights and which is initially not directly imputable to the State (for example, because it is an act of a private person or because the person responsible has not been identified) can lead to international responsibility of the State, not because of the act itself, but because of the lack of due diligence to prevent the violation or to respond to it as required by the Convention."
39 Ibid., para. 176.
40 General Assembly resolution 40/36, A/RES/40/36, November 29, 1985.
41 ECOSOC resolution 1986/18, May 23, 1986, par 2.
42 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 19, Violence against women, (Eleventh session, 1992), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI\GEN\1\Rev.1 at 84 (1994).
43 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, U.N. Document A/Res/48/104, February 23, 1994, article 4.
45 Preliminary Report Submitted by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences, U.N Document E/CN.4/1995/42, November 22, 1994.