Guatemala: Whether a person who evaded forced military service in the past would be penalized upon return to Guatemala under the voluntary military system currently in place
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||23 May 2001|
|Citation / Document Symbol||GTM37144.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Guatemala: Whether a person who evaded forced military service in the past would be penalized upon return to Guatemala under the voluntary military system currently in place, 23 May 2001, GTM37144.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be38c.html [accessed 23 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The information that follows was provided by the Military Attaché of Guatemala for Canada during a 23 May 2001 telephone interview.
The Military Code no longer provides penalties for not reporting for service. Service in the military has been voluntary since 30 June 1994. If someone could have been charged for failing to report for service before that date, at present the charges would have been expired (sobreseimiento de la pena; el delito prescribió), and the person would face no penalty today.
Although since 1994 military service has been voluntary, this is not legally specified, since the corresponding legislation has been under debate in Congress. However, through a presidential decision six years ago, military service has remained voluntary.
The information that follows was provided during a 23 May 2001 telephone interview by a representative of the Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas de Guatemala (Guatemala National Widows Coordinator, CONAVIGUA), a non-government organization that has challenged recruitment practices in the past and is currently advocating a legal reform to military service.
The forcible recruitment of persons into military service has been suspended for a number of years. Legally, the Mandatory Military Service (Servicio Militar Obligatorio) is in effect, but works in different ways: given the widespread economic hardship in the country, and an improvement in treatment and benefits of soldiers by the armed forces, many Guatemalan youths volunteer for service. Given also that the armed forces have undergone a reduction in personnel, the armed forces has had little difficulty filling its ranks with volunteers. Nevertheless, the armed forces currently visit rural and indigenous communities promoting and enticing local youth to serve in the military.
During the armed conflict, many people who opposed military service suffered "less intense persecution" (persecusión de menor intensidad), and although there is currently no reported cases of repression for avoiding service in the military, many have remained fearful of the army and of possible consequences.
Through the peace accords, returning exiles and refugees were exempt from military service for five years. This agreement has expired but, through a presidential order issued six years ago and through agreements between the armed forces and civic movements, it is still respected in practice and no forcible recruitment is to take place until new legislation is enacted.
CONAVIGUA is currently working on proposed legislation for the current Congress to consider. It calls for alternative social service, and reducing the current maximum age of service from 35 to 24 years of age.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas de Guatemala (CONAVIGUA), Guatemala City. 23 May 2001. Telephone interview with representative.
Embassy of Guatemala, Washington DC. 23 May 2001. Telephone interview with Military Attaché for Canada and the United States.
Additional Sources Consulted
Central America Report [Guatemala City]. 1997-May 2001.
Latin American Regional Reports: Central America & the Caribbean [London]. 1995-Apr. 2001.
MINUGUA periodical reports, 1st through 9th.
Internet websites and search engines.
This list is not exhaustive. Country-specific publications available at the Resource Centre are not included.