Sourani, Raji (1953–)

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Palestinian human rights lawyer and activist, born in Gaza in 1953. Attended schools in Gaza and Bethlehem; studied law at Beirut Arab University and Alexandria University, where he earned his law degree in 1977. As a lawyer in private practice until 1991, Sourani worked as a defender of Palestinians in Israeli military courts. During this time he was frequently harassed by the Israelis and was imprisoned by them several times between 1979 and 1982, suffering beatings and torture. He was director of the Gaza Center for Rights and Law from 1991 until 1995, when he called for an investigation of the security courts operated by the Palestinian Authority (PA), only to be was arrested by the PA and dismissed from his job.

In 1995 he founded the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, of which he remains the director. One of the most prominent human rights advocates in the Middle East, Sourani works to promote democracy, the rule of law, and the principles of human rights both domestically and internationally. He continues to be a severe critic of Israeli policies and to document Israeli actions in the occupied territories, and has also been critical of the PA for its human rights abuses. Sourani has worked with the Palestine Human Rights Information Center and other human rights NGOs. He is a board member of the International Federation of Human Rights and a member of the International Commission of Jurists. He has received a number of awards for his work, including a Robert F. Kennedy prize in 1991 and a Bruno Kreisky prize in 2002. In 2003 Sourani was selected for a human rights fellowship by the Oak Institute at Colby College in Maine, but was denied a visa to enter the United States.

SEE ALSO Palestinian Authority;Palestinian Center for Human Rights.