KENYA — In a significant stride towards enhancing healthcare justice, the Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in collaboration with key stakeholders within the judicial and legal arena, has embarked on a pivotal validation exercise.

The aim? To craft a comprehensive ‘right to health bench book’ – a legal compilation poised to become an indispensable resource guide for esteemed figures in the legal sector, including judges, magistrates, and legal practitioners.

This groundbreaking initiative, the brainchild of ICJ Kenya, is an integral component of the “Unpacking Health Rights for Accountability to Facilitate Access to Health Services in Kenya” project.

Its overarching mission is to play a pivotal role in the realization of the fundamental human right to health, enshrined in the Kenyan constitution.

The validation process, officially inaugurated by ICJ Kenya’s Executive Director, Elsy Sainna, witnessed the participation of esteemed stakeholders from the Kenya Judiciary Academy and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Sainna underscored the significance of these deliberations, emphasizing the bench book’s potential to address critical policy and legal gaps, thereby dismantling barriers to healthcare access in Kenya.

Empowering judicial guardians of health rights

As Sainna noted, “The bench book will act as a legal guide to judges and magistrates on right to health matters, especially at a time where Kenya is pushing for the full realization of Universal Health Coverage.”

The presence of luminaries such as Court of Appeal judges Lady Jessie Lesiit and Lady Justice Lydia Achode JA added gravitas to the occasion.

Lady Jessie Lesiit highlighted the bench book’s significance, explaining that it would serve as a comprehensive reference tool for judges and magistrates, tailored to the Kenyan context.

ICJ Kenya’s commitment to fostering health justice is exemplified through an array of knowledge products developed in tandem with this critical exercise.

These encompass a comprehensive review of legal and policy frameworks, a compendium on emerging and comparative jurisprudence, and the forthcoming bench book on the right to health in Kenya.

Dr. Naomi Njuguna, a driving force behind the draft bench book’s development, emphasized the importance of remedies to ensure effective rights. Dr. Mike Mulonga highlighted that the right to health is a journey, calling for participation and active agents of change.

Drawing lessons from landmark cases

The bench book’s structure is designed to glean insights from landmark cases, not only within Kenya but also beyond its borders.

It delves into jurisprudence that encompasses issues such as access and cost of health services, quality of care, patient safety and accountability, public health, emergencies and health security, sexual and reproductive health rights, as well as autonomy and consent to treatment. The scope further extends to areas including health information, products, and technologies.

As the validation exercise progresses, feedback from stakeholders within the health sector will be seamlessly integrated into the final draft of the bench book. Once complete, this invaluable resource will be printed and disseminated to the public.

In a country where preventable diseases weigh heavily; the intersection of healthcare and human rights is more critical than ever.

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