Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Portugal

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Portugal, 2004, available at: [accessed 18 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.

Portuguese Republic

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 10.0 million (2.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 44,900
Compulsory recruitment age: 18 (conscription being phased out)
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 19 August 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

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


In 2003 the UN Human Rights Committee and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe expressed concern about police use of firearms; reports about disproportionate use of force and ill-treatment by the police; the slow functioning of the justice system; and the excessive use and length of pre-trial detention.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution states that "Military service shall be regulated by law, which shall prescribe the forms, voluntary or compulsory nature, duration and content of the respective service" (Article 276).2

Conscription was being phased out and due to end in November 2004. The duration of service for remaining conscripts was six months.3 The Military Service Law, No. 174/1999, provided for the transition to a fully professional army and established 18 as the minimum age for voluntary recruits (Article 32). It instituted an annual Day of National Defence, when information would be made available to the public about joining the armed forces (Article 20).4 The law entered into force on 14 November 2000 and, on ratifying the Optional Protocol in August 2003, Portugal declared that "the minimum age for any recruitment – including voluntary – of persons into its armed forces is 18 years. The age limit is already contained in the Portuguese domestic legislation".5 However, in May 2004 the Defence Ministry stated that recruitment information published on its website needed updating as it continued to state that the minimum age for recruitment was 17 years old.6

Government defence plans, published in a White Paper in 2001, outlined the new model of military service. Recruits may sign a contract for two to six years of service or volunteer for a 12month period. General recruitment (conscription) was being replaced by normal recruitment, in which recruits joined up for longer periods, or exceptional recruitment, in times of war or emergency.7

Military training and military schools

Portugal has several military higher education institutions, including the Escola Superior Politécnica do Exército and the Air Force Academy. Applicants are required to have completed secondary school rather than fulfil specific age requirements, but candidates for the Army Sergeant School must be 18 years old. Under-18s may apply to the Air Force Academy with parental consent. All military school students receive weapons training.8

International standards

Portugal supports the "straight-18" position and has spoken out about child soldiers at international forums. At the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children on 10 May 2002, Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio urged greater international solidarity to combat problems affecting children, including "the proliferation of armed conflicts and the growing, unacceptable victimization and instrumentalization of children".9

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

2 Constitution,

3 Ministry of Defence news release, 22 March 2004,

4 Lei do Serviço Militar, No. 174/99, Military Service Law, Ministry of Defence, (Defesa, Legislação).

5 Declaration on signature: Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,; Declaration on ratification: (subscription required).

6 Child Soldiers Coalition interview with Ministry of Defence, 8 May 2004.

7 White Paper on Defence, Ministry of Defence, (Publicações) (As Características do Modelo /Characteristics of the Model of Military Service).

8 Child Soldiers Coalition interview with Ministry of Defence, op. cit.

9 Statement,

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