The Jurist of the Year Award is an annual award that seeks to give recognition, acknowledgment and encouragement to jurists who have consistently, fearlessly and impartially promoted the rule of law and human rights in Kenya during the year. The award has been given out on the 10th December each year since 1993 to commemorate and honor the United Nations International Human Rights Day. As an advocacy tool to motivate jurists who engage in human rights work, the Jurist of the Year Award has no equal in the country.

Since 1993, the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists has bestowed The I.C.J. Jurist of the Year (JOY) Award to individuals who have consistently, fearlessly and impartially promoted human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Kenya during the year. The award seeks to give recognition, acknowledgment and encouragement to these individuals. The Award has traditionally been presented on December 10th in commemoration of the United Nations International Human Rights Day. The JOY Award has become an important fixture on the Human Rights Calendar of events in Kenya. It provides an opportunity for human rights defenders and actors to reflect on the gains in promoting human rights during the year and to chart the way forward for the future. There is also an opportunity to network and mingle in a less formal setting.

The recipients of the award are selected using criteria set out in the Society By-laws, to ensure objectivity and transparency.

Chief Justice David Maraga named Jurist of the Year 2017

Moses Okinyi

Chief Justice David Maraga L with ICJ Kenya Chairman Kelvin Mogeni poses with the AwardKenya’s Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court Justice David Kenani Maraga is this year’s Jurist of the Year. The Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya) awarded him the annual award in an event graced by Retired Chief Justice Earnest Sakala of the Republic of Zambia.

For nearly three decades, ICJ Kenya has conferred this annual award on a distinguished Jurist.  The award primarily recognizes and acknowledges the outstanding contributions of an individual towards the promotion and protection of human rights, justice and the rule of law in Kenya.

ICJ Kenya Chairman Kelvin Mogeni who hosted the event termed Justice Maraga as an independent minded and hardworking judge who performs his work with diligence and determination and one dedicated to upholding democracy.

Justice Maraga was also recognized as a natural leader who served as presiding judge of the Court of Appeal in Kisumu, and as chairman of the Judiciary Working Committee on Election Preparations (JWCEP), which transformed into a permanent Judiciary Committee on Elections (JCE)], which liaises with stakeholders, evaluates judiciary’s role in the preparation and conduct of elections and advises the Judiciary on how to efficiently and expeditiously deal with election-related disputes.

Resulting from the Committee’s work, the Judiciary has been able to resolve all election disputes within the stipulated constitutional and statutory timelines.

In his acceptance speech the Chief Justice said the award will only serve as a challenge for his urge to turn the judiciary into the best institution and noted that the growth of a nation is tied to its respect for the democratic space and called for the respect of constitutional institutions.

Former Zambian chief justice Ernest Sakala who graced the occasion castigated the immense human violations which are not unique to Kenya but to other African states too.

Given the judiciary experienced unprecedented attacks from the political class after it invalidated the August 8th polls, retired Justice Sakala called on the judges to stay put and be courageous. He further urged for the recognition of the judiciary as an equal arm of the government.

The award is conferred every 10th December to commemorate the United Nations International Human Rights Day. Justice Maraga was awarded at a dinner ceremony held at the ICJ Kenya offices on 11th December 2017.

Download 2017 Jurist of the Year Citation

Download ICJ Kenya’s Chairman JOYA Opening remarks

Download Chief Justice David Maraga’s JOYA Acceptance Speech

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It is Willie! The Late Human Rights Lawyer Willie Kimani named 2016 Juristof the Year

The late human rights lawyer Willie Kimani has been named the 2016 Jurist of the Year.

In recognition of his work, lawyer Kimani has now been named Jurist of the Year after he paid the ultimate price while defending human rights.
Kimani, who was killed mid this year was awarded the posthumous award for his bravery in defending the down trodden in the country, since he was a law student at the University of Nairobi.
It is the work his widow Hannah Kimani, while receiving the award at a ceremony held on Friday 9th 2016 to commemorate the International Human Rights said: “I never thought it will cost his life.”
“No amount of words can explain who Willy was. He was one of a kind… with this award, it shows that his work was not in vain.”
She described Kimani, “as the best father my two boys would ever have.”

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ICJ Kenya's Jurist of the Year 2015 is Paul Kibugi Muite

Paul Kibugi Muite a Kenyan lawyer and politician is ICJ Kenya’s 2015 Jurist of the year.

He is being recognised for having distinguished himself as a courageous defender of the Bill of Rights and has contributed to the development of laws that gave birth to the new constitutional order in Kenya.

"His court victories are legion, his political contribution substantial but the cases he argues profile style, commitment and courage. It is this moral clarity that would trigger a swelling of ranks at ICJ Kenya chapter and signal a defining moment in the country’s transition to democratisation.

ICJ Kenya salutes his career and hopes to bring attention to the value of the courage, boldness and expertise that he abundantly epitomises.”

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The 2014 Jurist of the Year: Mr. Mbugua Mureithi

Mr Mbugua Mureithi is an advocate who has worked in the area of counter-terrorism as a human rights, rule of law/legal consultant, defence lawyer and constitutional law litigator. In the course of his work in this area,  he has represented individuals charged with terror related cases. 

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.

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The 2011 Jurist Award: Justice Daniel Musinga

The 2011 Jurist Award was conferred to Justice Daniel Musinga at a colourful dinner hosted by ICJ Kenya at its premises in Kileleshwa.  Present at the award ceremony included Judge Philip Waki, a past recipient of the award, Prof. Christian Roschman, country director, Konrad Adenuer Foundation , Mr. Glenn Warren, US Embassy and Judge Lee Muthoga, ICTR Judge amongst other distinguished guests.  

Judge Musinga has been a distinguished jurist and was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya in 1988.  He was appointed as a member of the tribunal to investigate the conduct of suspended high court judges in 2003 and in October the same year, he was formally appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Kenya.  He was then posted in Nakuru and sat on the bench there until December 2007. He later sat on the bench at the High Court in Kisii between 2008 and 2010.  Since his appointment, Judge Musinga has been involved in many high profile cases, including cases invalidating the elections of various MPs.

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