Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with a constitution that provides for a presidential system with separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. On September 2, President Islam Karimov, who's executive branch dominated political life and exercised nearly complete control over the other branches of government, died in office. New elections took place on December 4. Former prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev won with 88 percent of the vote. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's preliminary election observation mission report noted that “limits on fundamental freedoms undermine political pluralism and led to a campaign devoid of genuine competition.” The report also identified positive changes such as the election’s increased transparency, service to disabled voters, and unfettered access for 600 international observers. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces, but security services permeated civilian structures, and their interaction was opaque, which made it difficult to define the scope and limits of civilian authority.
The most significant human rights problems in 2016 included torture and abuse of detainees by security forces, denial of due process and fair trial, and an inability of citizens to choose their government in free, fair, and periodic elections.
Other continuing human rights problems included incommunicado and prolonged detention; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; and widespread restrictions on religious freedom, including harassment of religious minority group members and continued imprisonment of believers of all faiths. Problems also included restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; restrictions on civil society; restrictions on freedom of movement; violence against women; the inability of citizens to obtain adequate social services such as public health and education; and human trafficking, including government-compelled forced labor. There was widespread disregard for the rule of law as authorities subjected human rights activists, journalists, and others who criticized the government, as well as their family members, to harassment, arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and politically motivated prosecution and detention.
Government prosecutions of officials were rare, selective, but often public, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.