Human Rights and the Right
Commissioner Winfred Lichuma
Kenya National Commission on
Legal guarantees that protect individuals.
They are birthrights of every individual
They are enshrined in a set of internationally
agreed legal and moral standards that get
translated in domestic laws i.e. constitutions
Rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible
and they come with duties and responsibilities.
States have the responsibility or duty to
respect, protect and fulfil human rights
Characteristics of Human Rights
Focus on inherent dignity and equal
worth of all human beings.
Indivisible and interdependent.
Cannot be waived or taken away
Protect individual and to some other
Some Rights Guaranteed
Rights are guaranteed to all human beings
under international treaties without any
discrimination on grounds of sex, race,
language, political or other opinion, national or
social origin etc.
Right to life, freedom from slavery, equal
protection of the law , right to nationality
Right to the highest attainable standards of
health, right to food, water, food, clean
Hierarchy of Rights
All rights are equally important
Rights are indivisible and interdependent.
No human being is inferior to any other.
Economic, social and Cultural rights must be
respected, protected and realized on equal
footing with civil and political rights.
Efforts should be made to realize all rights
together allowing for prioritization as
necessary in accordance with human rights
Human Rights Obligations
To respect-Not to interfere with their
To protect-to take steps to ensure 3rd
parties do not interfere with their
To fulfil-to take steps to progressively to
realize the right in question.
Link between Health and Human
Violations or lack of attention to human rights
can have serious health consequences.
Health policies and programmes can promote
or violate human rights in the ways they are
designed and implemented.
Taking steps to respect, protect and fulfil
human rights can reduce vulnerability and the
impact of ill health.
The Right to Health
It requires governments and public
authorities to put in place policies and
action plans which will lead to available
and accessible health care for all in the
shortest possible time.
Most authoritative interpretation of the
right to health is outlined in article 12 of
the ICESCR and its General Comment
General Comment 14: Criteria to
evaluate the Right to health
Availability-functioning public health and health and
health-care facilities, goods and services as well as
programmes have to be available in sufficient quantity.
Accessibility- services must be accessible to everyone
Acceptability-All health services and goods must
respect medical ethics and be sensitive to gender. It
must respect confidentiality.
Quality-Health facilities, goods and services must be
scientifically and medically appropriate and of good
Principle of Freedom from
discrimination and Health
Targets the vulnerable and marginalized in societies.
Overt or implicit discrimination violates the
fundamental human rights principles and always lies at
the root of poor health status.
Discrimination manifests itself in a complex variety
ways for example violence against women.
Preferential treatment in reasonable circumstances
does not amount to discrimination.
Public health practices are heavily burdened by the
problem of inadvertent discrimination-mostly relying on
Right to Health in the context of
Kenya has ratified various international and
regional instruments that provide the right to
health and non discrimination. i.e . ICCPR,
ICESCR, CRC, CEDAW, ICERD, and the
African Charter among others.
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are not
enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya.
The Social determinants of health that are the
current focus of WHO are constraining factors
in Kenya’s attempts to realize the right to
health such as the high poverty levels and
high rates of unemployment.
Kenyan context cont…
The right to health has suffered from chronic under-
investment. Health system has been undermined and
weakened and Kenya needs concerted measures to
establish effective and inclusive health systems
accessible to all.
Kenya has to strife to keep to the health related goals
it has committed itself to i.e. MDGs, UNGASS for
children and HIV and AIDS, etc.
The GOK has attempted to operationalize the
commitments through various policies geared towards
achieving broad based sustainable improvement in the
welfare of Kenya. i.e. National Poverty Eradication
Plan, the PRSP and the Vision 2030 e.t.c.
Poverty and Hunger.
Combating HIV and AIDS, Malaria and
Water and sanitation.
Most laws and policies are outdated and require
The waiver of maternity fees is a positive move.
The government and other agencies should jointly
work towards fulfilment of the right to health.
The rights-based approach that will insist on
participatory approach and empowerment will be the
We need to convince the 10th parliament that we must
include ESCR into the constitution during the
proposed review of the constitution.