Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Italy

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Italy, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 23 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.

Population: 58.1 million (9.8 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 191,200
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18 (conscription suspended from January 2005)
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 9 May 2002
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC

According to 2004 legislation the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces was 18, but the declaration made at the time of ratification of the Optional Protocol, indicating 17 as the voluntary recruitment age, had not yet been amended.


National recruitment legislation and practice

Law No. 226/2004, enacted in August 2004, suspended conscription with effect from 1 January 2005 (Article 1). Conscription could be reintroduced if war was declared or if there was a serious international crisis and numbers in the services were insufficient.1 Law 226/2004 also provided that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces was 18, for a fixed one-year or four-year contract.2 However, the declaration made by the government at the time of the ratification of the Optional Protocol, which indicated 17 years as the voluntary recruitment age, had neither been withdrawn nor amended.

Italy had not adopted legislation to prohibit and criminalize the recruitment or use in hostilities of children by armed groups distinct from the state armed forces. The Military Penal Code of War omitted the war crime of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.3 In its Concluding Observations on Italy's Initial Report on the Optional Protocol, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Italy introduce such legislation.4 The Committee also expressed concern at the lack of definition of "take a direct part in hostilities" in Italian legislation,5 and queried this issue specifically during the dialogue with country representatives.6

Military training and military schools

Italy had three military schools: the Teuliè Military School in Milan, the Nunziatella Military School in Naples and the Francesco Morosini Naval Military School in Venice. Applicants had to be between 15 and 17 years of age and pass an entrance examination.7 In addition to the normal school curriculum, students received military training, including combat and weapons training.8

Italy's Initial Report on the Optional Protocol was ambiguous as to whether students enrolled in military schools were considered part of the armed forces. It was particularly unclear regarding the status of students aged 16 and over, who had to sign a three-year contract of "special voluntary recruitment" into the armed forces before they were allowed to continue their studies.9 Failure to sign the contract resulted in expulsion from the military school,10 raising questions as to whether the recruitment was genuinely voluntary. Although parents or guardians had to authorize a child's age (as 15 or above) before he could be admitted to a military school, a parent or guardian's informed consent was not required for the contract of "special voluntary recruitment" into the armed forces, signed by military school students at the age of 16. There was no obvious requirement that students had to be fully informed of the duties involved in military service before signing the contract. The Initial Report also said nothing about 16-year-olds providing "reliable proof of age" at the point of signing the contract.

Despite this contract of "special voluntary recruitment" into the armed forces, Italy maintained the position that such students were not part of the armed forces. The relevant paragraphs in the Initial Report suggested some confusion between the concept of membership of the armed forces and that of taking a direct part in hostilities.11 The Initial Report did not clarify when the three-year contract of voluntary recruitment would begin, and also failed to make it clear whether the students would be considered military recruits during their education at the military school, or on graduation.


Children seeking asylum in Italy were routinely detained, contrary to domestic law and international human rights standards. Those detained included former child soldiers.12 In its Concluding Observations on Italy's Initial Report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed regret about the lack of information on specific reintegration programs or activities for former child soldiers in Italy and the lack of systematic data collection on asylum seekers under the age of 18 who were affected by armed conflict. The Concluding Observations welcomed the Italian government's international and bilateral technical co-operation activities and financial assistance aimed at preventing the involvement of children in armed conflict and assisting the recovery of child victims of armed conflict and of child combatants.13

At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Italy 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 Law 331/2000, Article 2.1(f).

2 Law 226/2004, Articles 4 and 11.

3 Amnesty International (AI), "Italy – Law reform needed to implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court", AI Index: EUR 30/009/2005,

4 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Italy, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/ITA/CO/1, 23 June 2006.

5 Ibid.

6 Committee on the Rights of the Child, 42nd session, Summary Record – Italy, UN Doc. CRC/C/SR.1125, 24 May 2006.

7 Ministry of Defence and Military Schools, and

8 Initial report of Italy to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the Optional Protocol, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/ITA/1, 14 July 2004.

9 Ibid.

10 Concluding observations, above note 4.

11 Initial report, above note 8.

12 AI, "Italy: Invisible children – The human rights of migrant and asylum-seeking minors detained upon arrival at the maritime border in Italy", AI Index: EUR/30/001/2006, 23 February 2006.

13 Concluding observations, above note 4.

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