“There is a lack of understanding of human rights among both the legal practitioners and the bench. Coupled with the lack of legal awareness by the ordinary citizen, this poses a great challenge to the enforcement of rights. There is need to exploit the opportunities presented by the Constitution in order to develop jurisprudence on HIV in Kenya,” said Mr. Okome Arwa, a KELIN board member, during the seminar for lawyers on HIV Law and Human Rights in Kenya.
The seminar, from 21st to 23rd November, was organized by KELIN in partnership with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the National Empowerment Network of People living with HIV (NEPHAK) and with support from the Open Society Foundation (OSF). The main objective of the workshop was to share knowledge on HIV, law and human rights with a view of ensuring that participants use this information to protect and uphold the rights of those living with and affected by HIV.
Sessions were facilitated by senior lawyers with vast experience on HIV, law and human rights. They included Mr. Ambrose Rachier, Chair of KELIN and the HIV and AIDS Equity Tribunal; Ms. Catherine Mumma, Commissioner of the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC); Mr. Otiende Amollo, Chair of the Commission on Administrative Justice; and Mr Arwa, (all board members of KELIN). Mr. Nelson Otwoma, National Coordinator of NEPHAK also made a presentation on HIV in Kenya while Dr Zipporah Ali, Executive Director of KEPHCA made a presentation on the role of lawyers in palliative care.
Some of the key topics discussed at the seminar included: an overview of HIV and human rights and the relevant constitutional provisions; legal and ethical issues relating to HIV, legislating and litigating HIV in the Kenyan context; and developing HIV jurisprudence challenges and opportunities. Debate sessions and personal testimonies by PLHIV and videos were used as training tools.
At the end of the seminar Julius Juma, a pro bono lawyer with KELIN said:
“This seminar has been an eye opener for me as I am now clear on how to use the law to protect the rights of those living with and affected by HIV. I call upon KELIN to undertake similar trainings in all the 47 counties of Kenya.”
All 20 lawyers from Nairobi, Nakuru, Kakamega and Embu counties who participated in the seminar signed up as pro bono advocates for KELIN. In an effort to actualise the recommendations of the report of the Global Commission on law and HIV, KELIN is developing an online database that will link potential clients living with HIV with these advocates. This is seen to facilitate access to justice for PLHIV. KELIN will conduct a similar training in December in Kisumu County. The full workshop report will be shared on KELIN’s website.