DCI-Palestine seeks to instill changes in governmental, institutional and community policies and practices towards children at the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) level. To this end, DCI implements the following activities:
- Legal representation - One of the key objectives of DCI is to ensure that the P.A.’s justice system conforms to all relevant international juvenile justice standards. The organisation provides legal representation to children in conflict with the law before Palestinian courts, and monitors juvenile detention centres, police stations and prisons where children are held in custody.
- Influencing child-related legislation - DCI participates in technical committees responsible for drafting laws related to child rights, such as the draft Juvenile Justice Law.
- Capacity-building - DCI provides training to the Palestinian police, lawyers, judges and community based organisations working with children, in accordance with international juvenile justice standards.
- Networking - DCI is a member of the Child Protection Network (CPN), comprised of organisations working with child victims of violence, abuse and/or neglect across the West Bank. DCI is also a founding member of the Palestinian Network for Children’s Rights (PNCR), which implements advocacy initiatives to promote child rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Following the Oslo Accords in 1993, agreements were signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) establishing the P.A.. These agreements transferred a number of powers and responsibilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the P.A., whilst Israel remained ultimately responsible as the occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The agreements divided the West Bank into three zones, referred to as Areas A, B and C. Currently, the P.A. bears full civil and security responsibility in Area A, but shares security responsibilities with Israel in Areas B. In Area C, Israel retains full civil and security authority, including law enforcement.
Laws continue to remain in force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dating back to the Ottoman Period, the British Mandate and the period when the territories were under the respective administrations of Jordan and Egypt. Overlaid on this legislative mix are over 1,700 Israeli military orders issued since June 1967 which are enforced in Israeli military courts in the West Bank, as well as laws passed by the P.A. since the first Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 1996. Some of these laws apply to both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whilst others only apply in one of these areas or the other, depending on subsequent legislation and historical circumstances.
Areas of concern
As part of its monitoring programme, DCI collects sworn testimonies from children in conflict with the law to help identify areas of concern within the system. In addition to collecting testimonies, DCI regularly meets with relevant duty bearers and experts in the field of juvenile justice in order to identify weaknesses in the system, and to develop practical solutions. Some key areas of concern identified by DCI include the following:
- Juvenile courts: Under the P.A. juvenile justice system, there is an absence of specialised juvenile courts, staffed by appropriately trained professionals.
- Statistics: There is an absence of unified statistics relating to children in conflict with the law which hinders the ability to obtain a comprehensive and clear picture of the operation of the juvenile justice system. This in turn makes it difficult to ascertain the scale of some problems.
- Legislative reform: The P.A. juvenile justice system is still significantly influenced by legislation dating back to the British Mandate and Jordanian administrations. Efforts have been made to consolidate and modernise the law in line with international norms and standards, but further work is still required.
- Ill-treatment: There is evidence that in some cases children encounter some form of ill-treatment following their arrest. Testimonial evidence suggests that law enforcement officials use a combination of physical violence, threats and verbal abuse during questioning, transfer and detention, leading many children to provide confessions. In some cases, this treatment may amount to torture.