Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 12:49 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Portugal

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Portugal, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 17 January 2018]
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.

Population: 10.5 million (2.0 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 44,000
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18 (conscription suspended)
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 19 August 2003
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces.


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 1976 constitution (2005 revision) stated that "every Portuguese person shall possess the fundamental right and duty to defend the nation", and that "the law shall regulate military service and shall lay down the forms, voluntary or compulsory nature, duration and content of the performance thereof".

With the suspension of conscription in 2004, service in the Portuguese armed forces became entirely voluntary, in keeping with the provisions of the 1999 Military Service Law.1 The commitment to voluntary recruitment, with a minimum age of 18, was included in Portugal's declaration on ratification of the Optional Protocol in August 2003.2 However, all 18-year-olds were still obliged formally to register their names with their local authority. On an annual National Defence Day, a randomly selected group of approximately one hundred 18-year-olds were invited to attend a promotional event outlining the various options available to those who chose to perform voluntary military service or embark on a military career. Voluntary military service was open to all those between the ages of 18 and 24, extending to the age of 27 for university graduates and 30 for those with a medical degree. The length of voluntary military service varied from an initial period of 12 months (after which a volunteer could leave the armed forces, or return for a second year of service) to an annually renewable contract for a maximum of eight years.3

Military training and military schools

Individuals seeking to become career officers in the Portuguese armed forces could attend one of three military academies (for the army, navy and air force) that granted university degrees. Applicants had to have completed their secondary education, and those under 18 required parental consent. Postgraduate education was offered by the Instituto de Estudos Superiores Militares, which took students from all three armed forces.4


At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Portugal and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.

1 Information from defence attaché, Embassy of Portugal, London, October 2007.

2 Declaration of Portugal on ratification of the Optional Protocol,

3 Information from Defence attaché, above note 1.

4 Ibid.

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