Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April 2016, 15:07 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Ecuador

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Ecuador, 2004, available at: [accessed 28 April 2016]
DisclaimerThis 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.

Republic of Ecuador

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 12.8 million (5.1 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 59,500
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: not known
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 7 June 2004
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

Senior secondary school students aged about 16 may take part in a voluntary military instruction program run by the Defence and Education ministries, which includes training in handling weapons. There were reports of Colombian armed political groups recruiting under-18s in border areas of neighbouring countries, including Ecuador.


There were increasing fears that the armed conflict in neighbouring Colombia was spreading through the region.1 The number of refugees from Colombia seeking asylum in Ecuador grew and Colombian armed political groups were reported to often cross the border into Ecuador, where they forcibly recruited asylum seekers, trafficked drugs and people and fought with other armed groups.2

President Lucio Gutiérrez signed a "Reserved Areas" Executive Decree in April 2003, incorporating a 20 km-wide area near the Colombian border into the Armed Forces War Plan and limiting free access and movement of non-residents.3 He stated in March 2004 that the presence of the Ecuadorian armed forces in these areas would "ensure security, maintain peace and protect the border" and that any armed individuals entering the country would be detained.4


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 1998 constitution states that military service is compulsory, but that citizens will be assigned to civilian service in the community, if a conscientious objection is invoked because of moral, religious or philosophical grounds, in the manner determined by law (Article 188).5 However, there is no alternative civilian service provision in law.6

The 1994 Law on Compulsory Military Service requires all 18 year olds to be included in the ballot to determine who performs military service. The length of service is 12 months (Article 45). In the event of war or national emergency the head of state may extend military service as necessary at the request of the Ministry of Defence. During such time the National Security Law, No. 275 of 1979, allows the armed forces to mobilize the reserves. Under this law, all nationals and residents of Ecuador between the ages of 18 and 60 years must serve during national mobilization (Article 55).7

As the number of potential recruits usually exceeds the military service quota, recruits are chosen by ballot. Those not selected must pay a "compensation fee" to obtain their military certificate. The Law on Compulsory Military Service exempts military cadets and police school students from military service, and allows others to postpone it (Article 14).8 When there are insufficient recruits, recruitment round-ups are organized, illegally and usually in rural areas, resulting in a disproportionate representation of peasant farmers and indigenous people in the armed forces. Those who can afford to pay may opt out of military service with a "compensation" payment. In practice, the poorest in the community perform military service.

The Resistance Forces (Fuerzas de resistencia) are made up of civilians organized, trained and equipped by the army as a reserve force, to support internal security operations and participate in aid programs in the event of international conflict. Members receive periodic military instruction in armed forces units, and there is one major training and retraining program every year that takes place over about ten Saturdays.9

Military training and military schools

Students in their second year at senior secondary school (ciclo diversificado or bachillerato), who are usually aged about 16, may volunteer to attend military instruction every Saturday for six months, as part of the Voluntary Military Instruction for Students program (Instrucción militar estudiantil voluntaria). This program, run by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Education and Culture since 1993, was created with the aim of bringing civil and military institutions closer together. At military bases, students are instructed in physical education, military skills and the handling of weapons.10

Armed political groups

UNHCR reported that armed political groups from Colombia were recruiting under-18s in border areas of Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela.11 In 2002 UNHCR in Venezuela warned of an increase in the recruitment of children by Colombian armed political groups as the conflict in Colombia worsened and of the serious consequences for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, in particular children.12

* see glossary for information about internet sources

1 BBC Mundo, "Colombia y Ecuador blindan frontera", 18 March 2004,

2 UNHCR, "Colombia: Aumenta temor por inseguridad en fronteras" in Actualidad en las Américas, No. 2, 1 October 2002,

3 Marcelo Larrea, "¿Lucio se hunde en el Plan Colombia?", Agência de Informação Frei Tito para a América Latina (ADITAL), 5 May 2003,

4 Government of Ecuador, "Presidente Gutiérrez ratifica que Ecuador no se involucrará en el conflicto colombiano", 1 April 2004,

5 Army (Fuerza Terrestre Ecuatoriana), Formación militar, ec/formacionmilitar/index.htm (Servicio militar).

6 SERPAJ Ecuador, Dossier: Grupo de Objeción de Conciencia del Ecuador, ec/informes/grupo/grupo_dossier.php.

7 Ley del Servicio Militar Obligatorio, Registro Official No. 527, 15 September 1994; Ley de Seguridad Nacional, Registro Official No. 887, 2 August 1979, at Red de Seguridad y Defensa de América Latina (RESDAL), ar (Base de datos).

8 Interview with Pablo de la Vega, Centro de Documentacion en Derechos Humanos 'Segundo Montes Mozo, SJ', Quito, Ecuador, August 1999.

9 Army, Formación militar, op. cit. (Fuerzas de Resistencia).

10 Army, Formación militar, op. cit. (Instrucción Militar Estudiantil Voluntaria).

11 BBC Mundo, "Grupos armados 'reclutan niños'", 21 May 2002.

12 UNHCR News, "Colombia: preocupación de ACNUR por el reclutamiento de niños refugiados", 21 May 2002.

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