Ramallah, June 26, 2019—Defense for Children International - Palestine submitted a joint alternative report to the United Nations, finding that the State of Palestine has significant obstacles to overcome in order to achieve full compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In early June, DCIP presented detailed findings and recommendations to the working group for the Committee of the Rights of the Child during its 83rd pre-session in Geneva.
Central to the challenges outlined in the report are inconsistent legal standards, stemming from the number of past and present authorities who have exercised or are exercising jurisdiction in the area. Consequently, a web of overlapping bodies of laws amounting to different legal systems apply to Palestinians living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. In addition, poorly defined roles for various duty bearers, a lack of fund allocations, and insufficient data collection all present major roadblocks to the full implementation of the CRC, the report found.
“Child-related laws and policies will remain empty promises until greater efforts are taken to monitor the implementation and enforcement of the law and collect comprehensive data about Palestinian children,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, DCIP’s Accountability Program director. “Current laws and regulations must be revised to ensure consistency with the amended Palestinian Child Law, Juvenile Protection Law and the CRC.”
“Moreover, there must be clearly defined responsibilities for government actors with accountability measures in place for any violations,” Abu Eqtaish stated.
The report catalogued a number of existing laws which are inconsistent with the CRC. Some examples include Article 62 of the Penal Code which allows corporal punishment as a method of discipline, and the Personal Status Law of 1976 which sets the legal age for marital consent at 15 years for girls and 16 years for boys.
Large concerns about legal structures and practices toward children in conflict with the law were highlighted. Among these were: the ill-treatment of detained children, including instances of torture, the detention of children with adults, and the need for specialized juvenile courts staffed with appropriately trained professionals.
Another urgent issue noted in the report is the need for children with disabilities to be able to access rights and services, especially in the education and healthcare sectors.
In 2014, the State of Palestine acceded to the CRC and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. In so doing, the State of Palestine agreed to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the enumerated rights — including by adopting or reforming laws and policies in line with the provisions of the CRC or Optional Protocol. It also obligated itself to period review.
The State of Palestine submitted its initial report demonstrating CRC implementation to the Committee in 2018.
The Committee invited nongovernmental organizations to submit an independent “alternative report” to identify gaps and underline challenges.
DCIP led efforts to draft the alternative report in collaboration with eight other local, Palestinian nongovernmental organizations: General Palestinian Union of Persons with Disabilities - Bethlehem Branch, Health Work Committee, Juzoor for Health and Development, Palestinian Counseling Center, Qader for Community Development, Teacher Creativity Center, Women's Affairs Technical Committee, and the East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation Program.
To assure child participation in the reporting process, DCIP facilitated open discussion sessions in Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, and the Gaza Strip. The discussion were child-led and inclusive across gender, geographic areas and ability.
Two child representatives were also able to speak directly to the Committee members during a dedicated part of the gathering in Geneva.
The alternative report evaluated the current child rights situation, covering basic healthcare and welfare, civil rights and freedoms, the family environment and alternative care, education, leisure, and cultural activities. General principles and measures of implementation, the definition of the child, and special protection measures were also analyzed.
While some important progress has been made to improve the situation of children’s rights in the State of Palestine, such as the adoption of the Juvenile Protection Law of 2016, the report identified four large hindrances.
First, the internal political divide between the Palestinian Authority which governs the West Bank and the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip has resulted in the unequal promotion and application of the CRC. Different strategies, policies, and fund allocations are therefore being applied in these two areas. Following this rift, the Palestinian Legislative Council was unable to convene and fulfill its role of enacting legislation. Thus, since 2007, there has been no competent authority to pass and review relevant laws.
Second, there are no budget allocations that specifically prioritize child protection and development. The report stressed that the promotion, protection and realization of children’s rights without discrimination requires a political commitment to equitable budgeting, with priority given to the most marginalized and vulnerable.
Further, poorly defined roles for duty bearers within the juvenile justice sector has resulted in inefficiency as well as low accountability for individual actors. This is especially true in regard to the responsibilities of administrative officials, governors, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Social Development, as they administer juvenile justice, the report stated.
Finally, the absence of comprehensive and systematic data on children’s rights issues raises questions about any strategies developed for the coming years. The report urged the State of Palestine to create an independent national child rights commission to monitor the situation of children’s rights by collecting data on all areas covered by the CRC.
The Committee will make its recommendations to the State of Palestine in January 2020.