Defence for Children International-Palestine and the Rafto Prize 2023, a weekend honouring Human Rights Defenders
For over 30 years, Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) has investigated, documented, and pursued accountability claims for grave human rights violations against children; 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. DCI-P provides legal aid to Palestinian children and each year represents an average of 150 children prosecuted in the Israeli military courts. DCI-P has also documented the denial of fair trial rights to Palestinian children and persistent accounts of torture and inhumane treatment in Israeli custody.
Because of their persistent work to defend and promote the rights of children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), DCI-P was awarded the Rafto Prize 2023. This event was celebrated with a series of activities in Bergen, Norway, over the weekend of 11th and 12th November, 2023.
On Saturday 11, the annual Rafto Conference took place at the University Aula in Bergen and online (watch the recording here). The Conference shed light and discussed human rights challenges related to this year’s Rafto Prize for Human Rights. The rights of the Palestinian people and particularly children were of timely focus during the event as the critical situation in the oPt since the Israeli aggression of October 7 still develops to this day, with 11,255 victims in total, including 4,630 children killed as of 14th November.
The keynote speech was delivered virtually by the Rafto Laureate 2023, Khaled Quzmar, General Director of DCI-P and President of the DCI Movement. He talked about the work of DCI-P and raised his concerns about children’s rights in Palestine, calling for an urgent immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the need for international accountability. In a similar note, the event continued with interventions by Alex Kamarotos (Executive Director of DCI), Prof. Michael Lynk (former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967), Nora Ingdal (International Programs Director at Save the Children) and Benoit Van Keirsbilck (Director of DCI-Belgium and member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child), musical performances and a panel discussion.
On Sunday 12, the Rafto Award Ceremony 2023 was celebrated at the National Stage in Bergen to honour DCI-P. The ceremony included the presentation of the Rafto Prize Diploma; the annual Rafto Prize speech by Khaled Quzmar, who was not able to leave Ramallah due to the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, but joined us from the screen (watch the speech here); a speech by the Head of the Rafto Prize Committee; and performances by national and international artists.
The ceremony was followed by a torchlight procession in solidarity with Defence for Children International-Palestine, in which the streets of Bergen were filled with the light and support of an estimated 1500 people joining.
All photos by Ingvild Constance Festervoll Melien