Uzbek Government Decriminalizes Criminals Acting Under Coercion
The law introducing the relevant amendments was officially published on 10 January and entered into force on the same day. Now, a crime committed under physical or mental coercion is considered separately from the strict criminal liability of the act itself.
Previously, coercion was regarded as a special case only in extreme circumstances like self-defense. Just like someone who violated the law but would usually have all chances to be acquitted. However, the new version of the Criminal Code provides for a change in the approach to the consideration of such cases.
Norma.Uz news agency experts said that such an emergency requires that there is absolutely no way to escape the situation. There can be no alternative to committing a crime. For example, if a certain person is threatened to be beaten up if he does not kill another person - this means that he is invited to go beyond self-defense. After all, if they beat him up, it would only be about harming his health, which is less serious than murder. Under the new circumstances, the judges will pay attention only to the very fact of coercion and would in the mentioned case allow to value a person’s health higher than another’s life.
The fact of coercion will be established if the experts certify that the defendant was not to fully control his own actions. But there is a difference to insanity. An insane person in principle cannot control his actions, but a person under threat is only temporarily unable to do so. All responsibility, in this case, will rest on the person who forced another to commit a crime.
Nurma.uz quotes further learned from an expert that the meaning of the term "mental coercion" is not entirely clear yet. Official definitions in this regard have not yet been issued. However, experts believe that such psychological coercion will be acknowledged, for example, when violence is threatened against loved ones, but not when a person’s job is put at risk. The key aspect is physical force, applied to a person himself or to other people.
If a court establishes that a person has not acted under acute coercion, his lawyer will be able to claim an emergency. This concerns defendants who insist that they acted in self-defense but would have still been punished under the old scheme.
It should be noted that the acquittal rate of Uzbek courts is extremely low. In October 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev admitted that there had not been any “not guilty” verdicts in recent years. "The most unpleasant thing is that courts have not issued any acquittals in recent years. Does that mean that law-enforcement does not make any mistakes? Of course not", the head of state said. Soon after, official statistics on criminal cases in 2016 were published without mentioning acquittal rates.
After that, judicial reform started in Uzbekistan and the courts acquitted 191 people in 2017. Besides, in 238 cases no criminal behavior was found, while courts processed 549 cases in which the allegedly criminal act was no longer considered harmful to society and 1636 cases that were not criminal at all.