Dr. Leila Nicolas*
Globally, even though youth rights have a long history that is longer than commonly known, it was not until the nineties of the twentieth century that these rights swirled to the surface at global level, most notably with the 1992 Report of UN Special Rapporteur on Youth and Human Rights. After that, youth rights became at the center of human rights international law, that were included in many international treaties specifically the children's rights convention.
However, the dilemma that arose at the international field was the absence of a clearly defined legal definition of young people. In contrary to the children, who are progressively treated and understood as a codified concept with a clear legal status, young people do exist as a legal category, but this category is not clearly defined and young people continue to be widely perceived as a socio-political concept with unclear borders and inconsistent interpretations.
For the case of Bahrain, what was called "Arab Spring" added more challenges and risks to the Bahraini Young people that have been deprived from basic freedoms and rights, added to the pressing global challenges on the youth all over the world i.e. high levels of unemployment, vulnerable working conditions and marginalization from the decision-making processes.
Media Reports from the streets of Bahrain show that many young girls and boys put themselves on the line of fire each day by going to the streets calling for their rights. They have been subject to torture, prevented from education and from their basic right to medication as a punishment for rebellion. Actually, those young girls and boys were not only speaking for political change, but struggling to achieve their dreams of citizenship, right of free expression, human dignity and equality.
Under International law, the Bahraini government has the obligation to guarantee the human rights of its citizens, and has a duty to prosecute human rights' abusers especially the rights of youth. No measures of responsibility and accountability were taken when a sixteen-year-old boy- which is usually regarded a minor in terms of rights - has been subjected to defamation and his image appeared on various internet websites facing charges of "terrorist attacks". It is a great sign of double standards in Bahrain where the government treats young people as adults in matters of judicial responsibilities, in cases of arrest, prison and justice while only granting them the rights of minors, or offering them no rights at all.
It is urgent to call for youth rights as a part of human and citizen rights in Bahrain. It should be one of the main issues raised in any negotiation or reconciliation process between the government and the opposition; to highlight current challenges for young people in accessing their rights, to explore the rationale of binding and non-binding instruments to ensure that young people can adequately access their basic freedoms and rights, and to implement the right of youth to freedom from all forms of violence.
While the globe is enjoying the big step in the progress of youth rights through the finalization of the Youth Development Index, the Arab governments have to answer the question whether and how they want to engage in the youth rights discourse changing the challenges and risks of youth bulbs in their countries to major advantages.
On 17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly declared 12 August be the International Youth Day. It is important on this day especially to call for the people and governments of the world to take into consideration the input of the future generations all over the world and in Bahrain as well. Investing in the future, is the real investment that may build a new Bahraini State, that may raise up to the expectations of new generations...it is the wise investment in youth.
Dr. Leila Nicolas is a professor in the Lebanese University, and an expert in the fields of Humanitarian international law and international Justice.