The Nation (Nairobi)

21 June 2011

Kenya: HIV and Aids Tribunal Finally Sworn in

Nairobi — It will no longer be business as usual for those who have been discriminating against Aids patients.

That was the message by the seven-member HIV and Aids Tribunal after they were sworn in at the High Court by deputy registrar Rose Ougo.

Immediately after taking oath of office on Tuesday, the tribunal said they were going to a meeting to discuss how to kick-start their mandate and make the body operational.

The tribunal is authorised to hear and determine complaints or appeals arising from any breach of the HIV and Aids prevention and control Act, excluding criminal jurisdiction.

Lawyer Ambrose Otieno Rachier, who will chair the tribunal, said it was a great occasion and a new dawn for those who have been victimised as a result of their HIV status, adding, the time for silent suffering was over.

"The tribunal is going to address fundamental human rights abuses as a result of an individual's HIV status and come with remedies to redress the injustices," Mr Rachier said.

From the time the tribunal was established in 2009, he said, many people have been seeking their help, but they couldn't assist them because they had not yet been sworn into office.

Mr Rachier said the tribunal's offices will be located at Landmark Plaza next to Nairobi Hospital, but will open other offices in all the 47 counties to receive complaints.

Ms Joy Asiema from the University of Nairobi's School of Law is tribunal chair.

Delay in swearing in

The Attorney General named the team in December 2009 in line with to the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Act, but it did not take off due to delay in swearing in the members.

Ms Asiema said the discrimination visited on women living with the virus should not be entertained any longer.

"We have cases where people have been dismissed from their work places due to their HIV status and women chased from their matrimonial homes as a result of testing positive. This must end," he said.

The don told wananchi to no longer fear going for tests to know their status, saying, the tribunal would defend them in case they had complaints of discrimination or abuse arising from the outcome of the tests.

According to the HIV and Aids prevention and Control Act, the tribunal shall have all the powers of a subordinate court to summon witnesses, take evidence and call for the production of books and other documents.

It will also have the powers to award costs of any proceedings before it and direct that costs be taxed in accordance with any scale prescribed for suits in the High Court or award specific sum as costs.

In case of an appeal being made to the tribunal, it has the power to award damages in respect of any proven financial loss in respect of impairment of dignity, pain or emotional and psychological suffering as a result of discrimination.

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