The human rights lawyer and founder of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani, has won the Right Livelihood Award, commonly known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. It is the first time that a Palestinian has won the award. The Heinrich Böll Foundation is delighted about this decision and has congratulated Sourani on this outstanding achievement. In 2011, the Heinrich Böll Foundation invited Sourani to Berlin for a speaking tour with NGOs, activists, and politicians from all parties represented in the German Parliament. During the tour Sourani spoke of the dire consequences of the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, a blockade which has now entered its 7th year.
Raji Sourani was born in Gaza in 1953 and trained as a lawyer at the University of Alexandria. On graduating, he returned to the Gaza Strip established his own law firm and began practicing as a lawyer specializing in cases related to the Israeli Occupation, the military courts, detentions, torture and deaths in custody. In 1990, Sourani became the Director of the Gaza Centre for Rights and Law and then in 1995 he founded the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) along with like-minded colleagues. PCHR has become the foremost human rights organization in the Gaza Strip.
Throughout the course of his 35-year long career as a human rights advocate Sourani has been detained six times by both Israel and, since 1994, the Palestinian Authority. As such, he has personal experience of detention and illegal conditions of incarceration as well as having defended fellow Palestinians in the courts on countless occasions. He was named a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International during a period of detention in 1988. Despite these periods in detention Sourani has remained an unreserved critic of human rights violations carried out by both sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. He has worked tirelessly to document and publicise human rights violations and in 1991 received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
The Swedish Right Livelihood Award Foundation presents the prize to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the fields of health, human rights and social justice. Sourani shares the prize with Dennis Mukwege (Democratic Republic of Congo), Hans R. Herren (Switzerland) and Paul Walker (USA). The Award was established in 1980 to honour and support those "offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." The award will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish Parliament in December 2013.