The 2012 Jurist of the Year: Lawrence Mute

Each year since 1993, the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists has recognized the achievements of one outstanding jurist who is dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of the law. The award is done in part to commemorate International Human Rights Day and in part to recognize the contributions of an eminent jurist.

In the past, this award has been given to eminent judges, advocates, and public officials whose work has led to significant improvements in the respect for human rights and the rule of law in Kenya. This in turn has had a real impact on the lives of ordinary Kenyans.

2012's distinguished jurist has undoubtedly contributed to the betterment of the lives of many Kenyans through his human rights advocacy. His achievements have been recognized at the highest level. In 2010 he received the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya, which is a presidential award for services rendered to the nation.

He was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya in 1996. However, he is also a scholar. He completed his Bachelor of Laws in 1992 where his dissertation was entitled "The Blind and the Law in Kenya." In 1994 and 1995 he did a Master of Laws at the University of Warwick where his dissertation was "The Potential and Limitations of an International Criminal Court." For this study he received the Chevenin Scholarship from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Since then he has authored at least 21 book chapters, 12 edited or co-edited publications, ten newspaper, magazine or journal articles, and countless unpublished papers and publications.

He served as a Commissioner at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights from 2003 until November 26 of this year, with only a brief break in 2007. During that time, he led a number of KNCHR's functions, including its constitutional and legislative one, its policy research one, and its international and regional obligations one.

His achievements at the KNCHR are too numerous to list in any detail. When he left, a number of those involved in human rights work sent in congratulatory messages. All are complimentary and highlight the significant achievements he made to human rights in general. However, it is clear that an area for which he will be most fondly remembered is his work on disability rights.

At the KNCHR he broke new ground on how norms like legal capacity and independent living should be made real for persons with disabilities, not only in Kenya or even in Africa but globally. He lobbied the Kenyan government to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and assisted the State's position during these negotiations. Outside of his work with the KNCHR, he was appointed in 2011 by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to prepare protocols on the right of older persons and persons with disabilities. He has also provided strategic advice to the Advisory Committee of the Open Society Institute Disability Rights Initiative. And, not least, he has authored a number of academic and conference papers on the subject.

It is this work that led to the glowing testimonials from other human rights advocates.

His achievements are not only in the field of disability rights. He is also a leading advocate for equality rights more generally. He has worked for women's rights, including being appointed by the Attorney General to advice on the implementation of the Sexual Offenses Act. He has also been involved in advocating for the rights of minorities, particularly sexual ones.

Throughout his work, this year's eminent jurist has demonstrated the qualities that all jurists should aspire to. His past work has contributed significantly to the institutionalization of numerous human rights norms, both in Kenya and in Africa more generally. Even with the end of his time at the KNCHR, we are sure that he has not finished advocating for human rights and contributing in a positive way to society.

It is with pleasure and honour that ICJ Kenya award the Jurist of the Year to Lawrence Mute. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours and trust that he will continue his promotion of human rights wherever he is.