Children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) have grown up under the shadow of a protracted conflict that has influenced every aspect of their upbringing. Under occupation, children are routinely exposed to violence.
The Gaza Strip has been living under a crippling blockade since 2007 and is regularly subject to military operations that result in a high number of child deaths. In the West Bank, children experience violence through military incursions, demonstrations or attacks by settlers. Defence for Children International Palestine documented at least 112 settler attacks that targeted Palestinian children in 2013.
Against this backdrop, children face two separate legal systems on the same territory. Both systems treat children as perpetrators rather than victims and focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Around 500 to 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted in the Israeli military court system each year. Most of those are charged with throwing stones and many report violence during arrest and interrogation.
Defence for Children International Palestine (DCIP) was established in 1991 with the aim of creating a safe environment for OPT children through data collection that is then used for advocacy and lobbying. Today, DCIP is the main source of data on the situation of children in Palestine for international agencies, and works to mobilise local and regional organisations to improve laws and policies related to children and juvenile justice.
Headquartered in Ramallah with another office in Hebron, the organisation runs a Protection and Community Mobilisation programme, which seeks to strengthen and enable communities to take the lead in creating a safe environment for children. Protection teams monitor and document child right violations and lobby on behalf of children. Children are asked to participate in gathering information and drafting reports highlighting their grievances and needs.
DCIP’s Child Justice Unit monitors the implementation of legislation, policies and practices. It also provides legal representation in OPT courts for children in conflict with the law, as well as providing support for child victims of violence.
Photo: Fadi Arouri