Overview: The Government of Uzbekistan remained concerned about the potential spillover of terrorism from Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbors, the return of ISIS fighters from Iraq and Syria, and terrorist radicalization of Uzbekistanis abroad. The government has actively worked to improve its implementation of existing laws, including the development of a comprehensive national CT strategy and action plan, but there were no changes to the legislative framework in 2019. Uzbekistan continued to improve relations with its neighbors in many areas, including security cooperation. Uzbekistan remains an active participant in the C5+1 diplomatic platform, which supports CVE programming. Uzbekistan also signed a bilateral agreement with India on CT cooperation and a separate agreement with CIS states in 2019.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Uzbekistan in 2019.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no significant changes to terrorism-related legislation and law enforcement practices in 2019. The Law on Combating Terrorism governs terrorism-related investigations and prosecutions and identifies the State Security Service (SSS) as the lead CT law enforcement agency. The SSS and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) have dedicated CT units. Uzbekistan also criminalizes terrorism under its criminal code, and the National Development Strategy for 2017-2021 targets corruption, “extremism,” and terrorism.
The government reported an additional removal of 402 people from its watchlist of alleged “extremists” in 2019. The government facilitated the return of 156 individuals mostly women and children from Iraq and Syria and continued to explore options on the potential repatriation of FTFs from Syria throughout 2019.
Uzbek law enforcement maintains its own terrorist watchlist and contributes to INTERPOL databases. Most border posts and airports are equipped with biometric data scanners. Uzbekistan has mostly completed the conversion of all passports to a new biometric version and has introduced international biometric passports for travel abroad.
Uzbekistan has not reported specific actions to implement UNSCRs 2309 and 2396.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Uzbekistan belongs to the EAG. There were no updates in the passage or implementation of laws pertaining to CFT in 2019. Government officials received INL-funded training in 2019 that will support the ability to conduct financial investigations, improve interagency coordination on AML/CFT, and prepare for the upcoming EAG assessment of Uzbekistan’s compliance with international FATF standards. In addition, the Commission on Combatting Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, headed by the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) is preparing a new resolution to introduce joint financial investigations by MIA, SSS, PGO, and FIU.
Countering Violent Extremism: Uzbekistan remains concerned about the terrorist radicalization of Uzbekistanis, particularly labor migrants in Russia and other countries. Local government organizations continued to educate citizens about the dangers of “religious extremism.” The government has developed advertisements and funded other projects specifically targeting migrants deemed to be at high risk of terrorist radicalization. Official media and Tashkent Islamic University produced public messages about the dangers of terrorism and posted them on social media platforms and messaging apps.
The Government of Uzbekistan has publicly endorsed rehabilitation and reintegration of citizens previously engaged or suspected of being engaged in terrorist activities. In 2019, the government repatriated 220 FTF family members from Iraq and Syria, mostly women and children. The government has worked to reintegrate them into their home communities and has expeditiously identified suitable family for unaccompanied minors or placed them in orphanages. In close cooperation with UNICEF, the government has provided a mix of national and local-level social services to help reintegrate the returnees and has continuously monitored their progress.
In 2019, with support from the OSCE, an interagency working group coordinated by the Uzbekistani National Security Council developed a national strategy on “preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism.” That working group participated in a State Department-funded trip to the United States in late 2019 as part of a plan to finalize the strategy and action plan. Formal adoption of the strategy is expected in early 2020. The government also participated in the Central Asia + United States (C5+1) regional CVE framework. This included the hosting of a C5+1 regional workshop on CVE in May in Tashkent and a separate event in Samarkand in November focused on FTF reintegration and rehabilitation.
International and Regional Cooperation: Uzbekistan is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In 2019, Uzbekistan continued its participation in the UN Counter Terrorism Committee and the OSCE Action against Terrorism Unit. During the 2019 CIS Summit, Uzbekistan became a signatory to a cooperative agreement between CIS members to jointly combat terrorism. The agreement included preventive measures for “countering extremism, radicalization of the population,” financing terrorism, as well as involving civil society and mass media, holding special trainings, and the use of modern technologies for timely response to potential threats. In addition, Uzbekistan has sought bilateral agreements with other countries related to CT issues and signed an agreement with India in November on enhanced CT cooperation.
In 2019, Uzbekistan continued its active engagement in the C5+1 diplomatic platform and its associated C5+1 Security Working Group, which focuses on regional CT cooperation and participated in a Strong Cities regional workshop in Almaty in December that focused on reintegration and rehabilitation of FTFs and their families. Uzbekistan also participated in UNODC-administered training on detecting and preventing terrorist travel to enhance compliance with UNSCR 2396.