DCIP awarded international prize for its impact on Palestinian children’s lives

The Rafto Foundation for Human Rights announced via livestream on September 21, 2023 that Defense for Children International – Palestine was selected for the Rafto Prize 2023 for their persistent work to defend and promote the rights of children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Ramallah, September 21, 2023—Defense for Children International – Palestine is the 2023 recipient of the Rafto Prize the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights announced today. 

The Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize for Human Rights, known as the Rafto Prize, is awarded annually to individuals or organizations that have distinguished themselves in their work for human rights and democracy. The Rafto Prize has been awarded every year since 1987 shedding light on human rights violations and giving recognition to human rights defenders who deserve the world’s attention.

“By awarding the Rafto Prize to DCIP, the Rafto Foundation wants to shine a spotlight on their work to promote and defend children’s rights,” said Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt, executive director of Rafto Foundation. “With this award, we want to support DCIP by putting pressure on international organizations, including the UN, to investigate violations of children’s rights in the OPT and other armed conflicts around the world and demand that these be stopped.”

“Our human rights documentation and evidence-based advocacy exposing Israeli forces’ grave violations against Palestinian children have made us a target of the Israeli government for years,” said Khaled Quzmar, General Director at DCIP. “But we will not back down. We are grateful for the Rafto Foundation’s recognition of the necessary human rights work my colleagues and I carry out to defend and protect Palestinian children.”

The Rafto Prize laureate receives a diploma and prize money of $20,000. The 2023 Rafto Prize ceremony will be held on November 12 in Bergen, Norway. 

Previously, DCIP received the 2016 Stars Impact Award in recognition of its impact on the lives of Palestinian children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Over three generations of Palestinian children have grown up under the shadow of Israel’s brutal military occupation. Children are routinely exposed to violence, including injury from gunfire, torture, and individual attacks. More than 2,286 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of Israel military occupation since 2000, according to data collected by DCIP.

Since 2007, children in the Gaza Strip have suffered from a suffocating blockade and regular deadly Israeli military offensives. In the West Bank, children live under the constant and increasing threat of military incursions, home demolitions, and settler violence. 

46 Palestinian children have been killed in 2023, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Israeli forces and settlers have shot and killed at least 38 Palestinian children and killed one Palestinian child with a targeted drone strike in the occupied West Bank. Six Palestinian children in Gaza were killed in the May 2023 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, and a 10-year-old Palestinian child in Gaza succumbed to head wounds he sustained during the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip in August 2022.

Palestinian children in the West Bank, like adults, face arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment under an Israeli military detention system that denies them basic rights. Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year. Most children are charged with throwing stones. Three out of four children report experiencing violence during arrest and interrogation.

In a recent report, DCIP found that in the overwhelming majority of cases Israeli authorities systematically fail to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty of Palestinian children arrested from the occupied West Bank which constitutes arbitrary detention in violation of international law. Israeli authorities systematically disregard and deny fundamental protections and guarantees concerning the right to a fair trial to Palestinian children to the extent that nearly any deprivation of liberty as part of the military court system is of an arbitrary character.

DCIP is an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Since 1991, DCIP has investigated, documented, and exposed grave human rights violations against children; provided legal services to Palestinian children in urgent need; held Israeli and Palestinian authorities accountable to universal human rights principles; and advocated at the international and national levels to advance access to justice and protection for children.

DCIP’s work is divided into two broad programs: Accountability and Child Protection. Both include direct services and advocacy components. The Accountability Program focuses on child rights as they intersect with Israeli military and legal systems as well as the Palestinian juvenile justice system. The Child Protection Program promotes child participation and empowerment so Palestinian children can defend and advocate for their own rights and become agents for positive change.

Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, designated DCIP and five other Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as “terrorist organizations” on October 19, 2021, pursuant to a 2016 Israeli law. The designation effectively criminalized the activities of these organizations and authorized Israeli authorities to close their offices, seize their assets, and arrest and jail their staff members.