Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2017, 11:48 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Morocco and Western Sahara

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Morocco and Western Sahara, 2004, available at: [accessed 19 October 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.

Kingdom of Morocco

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 30.1 million (11.5 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 196,300
Compulsory recruitment age: 20
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 20
Optional Protocol: ratified 22 May 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

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


Claims for control of Western Sahara continued to be made by Morocco and – as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic – the Polisario Front, although more than 15 years of armed conflict had ended with the UN-sponsored ceasefire of 1991. The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) remained in Western Sahara but did not resolve the stalemate in holding a referendum on the control of the territory.

Armed Islamist groups, active in Morocco since the early 1990s, included grassroots organizations such as al-Salafiya al-Jihadiya (Islamic Combatant Group), al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (the Straight Path) and al-Takfir wa-al-Hijra (Excommunication and Self-Exile). Members of such groups were accused of involvement in bombings within and outside Morocco, notably in Casablanca in May 2003 in which 42 people died and in Madrid in March 2004, killing 191. In October 2003 two individuals arrested on terrorism charges in Morocco were under 16 and a third was 18 at the time of arrest.1 In April 2004, 15 Moroccan nationals were arrested in Spain and five more declared wanted by the Spanish authorities. The Spanish government said its investigations were focused on al-Salafiya al-Jihadiya.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

There was no evidence of underage recruitment into the Moroccan armed forces. The 1996 constitution states that "All citizens shall contribute to the defence of the Country" (Article 16).3 Eighteen years was established as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment in the armed forces by the Royal Decree of 9 June 1966.4 In its 2003 report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the government said that the compulsory recruitment age had been raised from 18 to 20.5 Although national service was in theory compulsory for all males, except those who qualified for exemption, not all were called up. The majority of recruits were believed to be volunteers. Large numbers volunteered, and only one in 60 was admitted. Recruits could opt to perform a two-year civilian service in government departments instead of military service.6

Military training and military schools

There were two military schools in Morocco, in Kenitra and Meknes.7 Students who attended military schools did so voluntarily and those aged under 18 followed the same national curriculum as in ordinary state schools.8

Armed political groups in Western Sahara

The Polisario Front said that recruitment into its armed forces, the People's Liberation Army, was voluntary and that the minimum age, including for military training, was 18.9 In February 2001, a journalist reported seeing two teenagers sorting out ammunition for their 23mm self-propelled gun in a Polisario camp.10 Morocco reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child that over 1,000 children were sent for military training to Cuba or recruited in the Polisario camps.11 However, these reports were not verified or corroborated by independent sources.

Other developments

International standards

When Morocco ratified the Optional Protocol on 22 May 2002, it declared that "the minimum age required by national law for voluntary recruitment in the armed forces is 18 years" and that it had raised the minimum age for conscription to 20.12

As a member of the African Union, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) supported the Common African Position, agreed at the Pan-African Forum for Children in Cairo in May 2001. The document included provisions to stop children, defined as anyone under the age of 18, being used as soldiers and to protect former child soldiers. The Common Position was presented to the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children on 8 May 2002.13

1 Jaridat al-Ahdath al-Maghribiyyah (Moroccan Arabic daily newspaper), "The case of Salafiya al-Jihadiya: the beginning of the investigation of 30 prisoners from the Sidi Mumin and Diwar al-Sakwila districts of Casablanca" (translation of article title), 24 October 2003.

2 Maria Jesus Prades, "Spain Frees 3 Arrested in Madrid Bombings", AP, 2 April 2004; Xinhuanet, "Spain blames Madrid bombings on Moroccan extremist group", 31 March 2004.

3 1996 constitution,

4 Report of Morocco to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/28/Add.1, 19 August 1995,

5 Second periodic report of Morocco to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/93/Add.3, 12 February 2003.

6 B. Horeman B. and M. Stolwijk, Refusing to Bear Arms: A World Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service, War Resisters International, London, 1998,

7 Information from Coalition member, 19 March 2004.

8 Report of Morocco to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, 19 August 1995, op. cit.

9 Communication from Acting Representative of the Polisario Front to the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland, 23 February 2004.

10 Rory Carroll, "Saharan rebels stranded in camps", The Guardian (UK), 7 February 2001.

11 Second periodic report of Morocco to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit.

12 Declaration on ratifying Optional Protocol in May 2002, Declarations and Reservations to the Optional Protocol,

13 The African Common Position as Africa's contribution to the special session of the General Assembly on children: Declaration, Pan-African Forum on the Future of Children, Africa Fit for Children, Egypt, 28-31 May 2001, in UN Doc. A/S-27/13, 16 April 2002,

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