The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Kenyan section alongside other key stakeholders in the judicial and legal sector kicked off in earnest a validation exercise of the, ‘right to health bench book’ that will serve as a legal resource guide for actors in the legal sector including judges, magistrates and legal practitioners.
The health bench book which is part of ICJ Kenya’s, Unpacking Health Rights for Accountability to Facilitate Access to Health Services in Kenya project, seeks to contribute to the realization of the rights to health, which is a fundamental human right guaranteed in the Kenyan constitution.
The validation exercise which was officially opened by ICJ Kenya’s Executive Director, Elsy Sainna also saw stakeholders from the Kenya Judiciary Academy and the Center for Reproductive Rights grace the milestone event.
Sainna, who hailed the consultatory discussions as an integral step in transforming health care in Kenya, noted that the bench book on health will address policy, legal gaps and challenges that impede access to healthcare services in Kenya.
“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,” she said.
The validation exercise was also graced by Court of Appeal judges Lady Jessie Lesiit and Lady Justice Lydia Achode JA among other senior judges and magistrates.
“This bench book will provide judges and magistrates with a comprehensive guide and informational source on all facets of the right to health as is best applicable in the Kenyan context,” said Lesiit.
With relevant stakeholders in the health sector also taking part in this crucial exercise, ICJ Kenya has developed knowledge products including a review of the legal and policy frameworks,a compendium on emerging and comparative jurisprudence and a bench book on the right to health in Kenya.
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Dr Naomi Njuguna spearheaded the development of the draft bench book in her presentation while highlighting some of the cases that have shaped the legal landscape in Kenya.
“A right without a remedy is an ineffective right. Indeed, one can argue that it is not a right at all. Remedies are needed to address violations of various rights, including the right to health,” noted Njuguna.
“The right to health is a journey and not an event and in order for it to be achieved fully, we need to be deliberate. This exercise also requires participation and active agents of change,” observed Dr Mike Mulonga.
The structure of the bench book seeks to draw lessons from various landmark cases in the country and beyond, sampling jurisprudence on cases that addressed 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.
Other areas of focus included health information, products and technologies.
Feedback from stakeholders within the health sector will be incorporated in the final draft of the bench book before it is printed and disseminated to the public.