Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Italy

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Italy, 2004, available at: [accessed 20 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.

Italian Republic

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 57.5 million (9.8 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 200,000
Compulsory recruitment age: 18 (conscription being phased out)
Voluntary recruitment age: 17
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 9 May 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

The law permits voluntary recruitment at 17, with parental consent, but prohibits the participation of under-18s in hostilities.


The functioning of the justice system fell short of international standards. There were allegations of excessive use of force and ill-treatment, sometimes amounting to torture, by law enforcement and prison officers. In 2001 hundreds of people suffered human rights violations during policing operations surrounding mass demonstrations. In July 2001 at demonstrations in Genoa a protester was shot dead by a law enforcement officer performing his military service in the carabinieri (paramilitary police) force.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution states that "The defence of the country is the sacred duty of every citizen. Military service is compulsory within the limits and the manner laid down by the law" (Article 52).2

The Italian armed forces were undergoing reforms to professionalize and phase out conscription. Previously, all men over 18 were liable for military service, which they could perform in the armed forces, carabinieri, fire brigade or police. Conscription was due to be suspended on 1 January 2005: men born after 1985 would not be liable for military service.3 Law No. 331 of 14 November 2000 provides for the phasing out of conscription, while allowing compulsory military service to be reintroduced in the event of war or national emergency in accordance with the constitution. The law permits military service to begin early, on request and with parental consent, from the age of 17, but prohibits participation of under-18s in armed hostilities.4

The minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 17, but recruits are not deployed until they are at least 18 because of training requirements.5 The legal basis for the recruitment of volunteers is Law No. 215 of 8 May 2001.6 Women may volunteer for military service under Legislative Decree No. 24 of 31 January 1998.7

Military training and military schools

Admission to military schools is between the ages of 15 and 17. Recruits to these schools are likely to apply subsequently to attend the Military Academy. The minimum age of admission to schools for non-commissioned officers and for the Military Academy is 17.8


International standards

On ratifying the Optional Protocol in May 2002 Italy declared that "legislation on voluntary recruitment provides that a minimum age of 17 years shall be required with respect to requests for early recruitment for compulsory military service or voluntary recruitment" and that parental consent was obligatory for voluntary recruitment of under-18s, in compliance with the Optional Protocol.9

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

2 Constitution, (Coalition translation).

3 Information on end of conscription, at Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union,

4 Norme per l'istituzione del servizio militare professionale, Law No. 331 of 14 November 2000, Official Gazette, No. 269, 17 November 2000, at Ministry of Defence, (Legislazione).

5 Communication from Ministry of Defence to Child Soldiers Coalition, 3 May 2004.

6 Official Gazette, No. 133, 11 June 2001, Supplemento Ordinario No. 142.

7 Committee on Women in the NATO Forces, Year in Review 2001,

8 Communication from Ministry of Defence, op. cit.; Recruitment information on army website,

9 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

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