A Kenyan lawyer has been awarded the prestigious 2018 Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award for his role in advancing human rights in the HIV/Aids field.
Mr Allan Maleche, a pro bono lawyer, received the biannual award on Monday during the opening ceremony of the 22nd International Aids Conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
“On behalf of my colleagues and the communities we serve, I am deeply honoured to accept the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award,” he said.
“Despite the successes we have had, there are still many human rights issues we need to address. Roughly, the same number of people died of Aids last year as the year before. This is unacceptable given the life-saving ARVs [antiretroviral] that we have. Globally, 40 percent of people who need ARVs do not have access to them.”
During his tenure as executive director at Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network (KELIN), Mr Maleche led a team that litigated a landmark case against forced sterilisation of women living with HIV.
In 2016, Mr Maleche also won one of his biggest cases after High Court declared that the practice of incarcerating tuberculosis patients was illegal and unconstitutional, and directed the government to develop a policy incorporating international principles on handling the disease.
In order to ensure these orders were implemented, the court took the unusual step of directing the government to file an affidavit within 90 days detailing the policy measures it had put in place.
Soon after that victory, Mr Maleche and his team won yet another case on children rights.
KELIN, Children of God Relief Institute (Nyumbani) and two other parties successfully moved to court to overturn a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta requiring the compilation of a report on all school children living with HIV and Aids. The court declared the directive unconstitutional.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Mr Maleche said: “There are many days when the challenges we face in Kenya and in so many other countries around the world can seem endless. They are a reminder that human rights must be fought for every day.”
Maleche is the first Kenyan to receive the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award which has since 2012 been awarded to three other HIV/Aids human rights advocates: Iranian doctors Arash and Kamiar (2012), Ugandan HIV/Aids medic Paul Semugoma (2014) and Zimbabwean human rights advocate Martha Tholanah.