Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 15:02 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Brazil

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Brazil, 2004, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
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.

Federative Republic of Brazil

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 176.3 million (60.6 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 287,600
Compulsory recruitment age: 17
Voluntary recruitment age: 16
Voting age: 16
Optional Protocol: ratified 27 January 2004
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

Children were involved in urban-based drug factions engaging in armed confrontations with other armed groups and the security forces. Military service regulations set the voluntary recruitment age at 18, but the possibility of voluntary enlistment at 17 years appeared to exist in law.


Security measures adopted by state governments to combat high levels of urban crime resulted in increasing human rights violations, including unlawful killings by the police. "Death squads" involved in organized crime and so-called "social cleansing" were active all over the country.1

Armed confrontations between urban-based drug factions killed hundreds of people every year.2 Their recruitment and use of child combatants has been compared to that of forces involved in armed conflict. They have targeted particular age groups for recruitment, allocated them specific functions and standing within the command structure, and rewarded them financially. In the poor communities of Rio de Janeiro, an estimated 5,000 armed under-18s were involved in organized armed violence.3


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 1988 constitution makes military service compulsory "as provided by law".4 According to the Military Service Law, Law No. 4375 of 17 August 1964, all Brazilians are liable for military service from the beginning of the year they turn 18 until the end of the year they are 46 (Articles 2 and 3).5 Therefore 17 year olds may be liable for military service. However, according to Regulations of the Military Service Law (Decree No. 57654), compulsory military service begins from 1 January of the year in which citizens reach the age of 19 (Article 7).6 In wartime the minimum age limit may be amended "according to the interests of national defence" (Military Service Law, Article 5).

Women and members of the clergy are exempt from compulsory military service in times of peace, but are subject to other duties assigned by law.7

Military service is normally for 12 months, but may be extended or reduced to accommodate specific situations (Article 6). The President has the power to order conscription, including of those who have already performed military service, to prevent public disorder or at times of emergency, for example (Article 19). Only a small proportion of those registered actually perform military service.8 Conscientious objection is allowed, but the armed forces determine the nature of the alternative service that objectors must carry out.

Volunteers may apply for military service at the age of 16 but may not be enlisted until the start of the year they are 17, under the Military Service Law (Article 5).9 Special authorization by the armed forces is required for volunteers (Article 27), and parental consent for those below the age of 17.10 The Regulations of the Military Service Law state that armed forces ministers may authorize the recruitment of 17-year-old volunteers at any time in order to fulfil "specific, normal or extraordinary needs" of the armed forces (Article 127).11

In its report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in October 2003, Brazil conceded that its Statute of the Child and Adolescent, Law No. 8069 of 13 July 1990, "makes no explicit reference to the involvement of children and adolescents in armed conflict". However, the government drew attention to the statute's provisions to restrict children's access to weapons or to publications containing references to arms or ammunition (Articles 79, 81 and 243). It also noted that "Brazilian law is in accordance with article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as it does not allow adolescents under the age of 18 to actually participate in armed conflicts, nor may those younger than 15 enlist, even as volunteers".12 Brazil does not support a "straight-18" position.13

Military training and military schools

All military schools have a minimum age of entry, and some of them admit 14 year olds. It was not known if under-18s receive weapons training.14

1 Amnesty International Report 2004,

2 BBC Mundo, "Río y sus 'niños combatientes'", 9 September 2002,

3 L.T. Dowdney, Crianças do Tráfico: Um estudo de caso de crianças em violência armada organizada no Rio de Janeiro, Viva Rio/ISER, 7Letras, Rio de Janeiro, 2003.

4 Constitution,

5 Military Service Law, Law No. 4375 of 1964, at Ministry of Defence, br/enternet/sitios/internet/disemi/index.html (Legislação).

6 Brazilian Army, br/02Ingres/Servmili.htm; Decree No. 57654,

7 Declaration made by Brazil on ratifying the Optional Protocol, (subscription required).

8 According to statistics provided by the military, in 2000, 92,525 conscripts out of a total 1,586,984 registered 18 year olds were recruited. Ministry of Defence, op. cit. (Diversos).

9 Military Service Law, op. cit.

10 Declaration made by Brazil, op. cit.

11 "necessidades normais, eventuais ou específicas das Forças Armadas" – Article 127, Decree No. 57654, op. cit.

12 Consolidated report incorporating initial report and first two periodic reports of Brazil to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add.65, 17 December 2003 (due to be considered by the Committee in September-October 2004),

13 Declaration made by Brazil, op. cit.

14 Centro de Orientação e Preparação as Escolas Militares,

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