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Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Paraguay

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Paraguay, 2004, available at: [accessed 24 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.

Republic of Paraguay

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 5.7 million (2.6 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 18,600
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 16
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 27 September 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

Under-18s were serving in the armed forces. There was a high rate of death and injury of conscripts, including children. In recent years forcible recruitment of underage recruits has decreased as a result of public pressure. However, official investigations in Paraguay into conscript deaths and underage recruitment appear to have stalled. Paraguay does not support a "straight-18" position.


Over 100 young conscripts have died since 1989 while on compulsory military service and many others have been victims of serious accidents, including some as young as 12.1 The deaths and injuries were believed to be the result of excessive punishment by officers and the lack of safety measures for dangerous activities such as handling weapons. Some conscripts suffered permanent psychiatric damage after systematic ill-treatment. One study, by Decidamos, a Paraguayan non-governmental organization (NGO), found that both the military and the police routinely ill-treated conscripts physically and psychologically, including by excessive and forced physical exercise to the point of exhaustion. This treatment was used as a means of maintaining discipline and as punishment for disobedience and failure to comply with orders.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

According to the 1992 constitution, in peacetime men are required to perform compulsory military service for a maximum period of 12 months, and in wartime women may be called up to serve as auxiliaries. Conscientious objection to military service is allowed. Objectors are required to undertake alternative public service under civilian jurisdiction and the alternative service they perform must not be punitive in character.3

The Law on Compulsory Military Service, No. 369/75 of 12 December 1975, regulates military service.4 Men are legally obliged to perform military service between the ages of 18 and 50 (Article 3), from the age of 20 serving in the various branches of the reserve (Article 4). In exceptional circumstances boys may start military service at an earlier age, where there is a "justified reason" (Article 5). Once a recruit under 18 has joined the armed forces, he is considered to have attained the age of majority (Article 10). The law states that officials who recruit under-18s will, without prejudice to their criminal liability, be removed or disqualified for five years from holding public office (Article 56). According to Article 36, military service lasts for two years in the eastern region and one year in the western region (Chaco Department).

However, the lack of regulations specifying the circumstances in which under-18s may bring forward their conscription has in practice allowed children as young as 12 to be recruited. By law, boys are required to register for conscription at the age of 17 before they enlist at 18, and recruitment officers have allegedly used this provision as the basis for recruiting 17 year olds. In 2000 the Supreme Court of Justice established that under-18s could only apply to join the armed forces through a juvenile court, which would decide whether the reasons given by the applicant were sufficient to enlist.5 Under-18s in the armed forces were deemed to have reached the age of majority and risked being tried by court martial or special tribunals under military law and receiving punishments inappropriate to their age.6

Military training and military schools

There are seven schools under the Army Command of Institutes of Military Education (Comando de Institutos Militares de Enseñanza del Ejército, CIMEE), including the Reserve Officers' Training Centre for Students' Military Instruction (Centro de Instrucción Militar para Estudiantes y de Formación de Oficiales de Reserva del Ejército, CIMEFOR).7

CIMEFOR training is compulsory by law for secondary school students, who are required to receive military instruction for the whole of January over two consecutive years, and may opt to attend for a further year.8 Following comprehensive reforms to the educational system, it has been reported that since 2003 students are no longer required to attend CIMEFOR training, although those over 18 may apply to do so.9

Since 2003 females have been accepted as students at military academies, where they occupy around 20 per cent of available annual vacancies.10

Child recruitment and deployment

In most cases, under-18s who enrol in the armed forces have been compelled to do so by economic circumstance or have been forcibly recruited.11

In recent years forcible recruitment has decreased in response to growing public pressure and official complaints. However, house-tohouse recruitment operations in rural and isolated areas are still carried out by the Armed Forces' Recruitment and Social Mobilization Service Directorate (Dirección del Servicio de Reclutamiento y Movilización Social), and pressure is put on parents to hand over underage children.12 Officers wait outside schools to check students' identification papers. In August 2001 a Recruitment Directorate communiqué announced that military police officers would be checking military documentation to ensure that individuals had complied with their military service obligations. Those without papers were then recruited.13

The Inter-Institutional Commission of Visits to Military Quarters (Comisión Interinstitucional de Visita a Cuarteles) was formed in 2001, following a national and international outcry about the death of conscripts. Its members are from the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government, as well as NGOs. It visited military units, checking the documentation and situation of young conscripts.14 During 2001 the Commission found a number of serious irregularities in the recruitment of conscripts, including false documentation provided by civil registry officers, as well as over 190 under-18s in the armed forces.15 In early 2004, 15 cases were pending investigation by the Human Rights Fiscal Unit of the Public Ministry (Unidad Fiscal de Derechos Humanos del Ministerio Público).16 Visits by the Commission have been suspended since President Nicanor Duarte Frutos took power in August 2003.17

There have been several deaths of under-18s in the armed forces and military schools in the last three years. Héctor Adán Maciel, recruited at the age of 16, died on 10 April 2001 from a gunshot wound after being illegally conscripted.18 His death was not investigated by the civilian courts. In November 2002, Luis Fernando Bobadilla, aged 15, died from a gunshot wound to the head while he was a student at the Navy Arsenal Technical School (Escuela Técnica del Arsenal de la Marina). At the time of writing, no judicial decision had been reached in the case.19 In October 2003 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agreed to investigate the "disappearance" of 14-year-old conscripts Marcelino Gómes Paredes and Cristián Ariel Núñez in Chaco Department in 1998.20

Other developments

In September 2001, Child Soldiers Coalition Paraguay launched a campaign for ratification of the Optional Protocol, contacting government officials and conducting nationwide workshops and a mass education campaign. As a result, the Senate requested Parliament to ratify the Optional Protocol and ratification took place on 27 September 2002. However, Paraguay does not support a "straight-18" position. At the time of ratification, it declared that "in accordance with the relevant national and international legal norms, it has been decided to establish the age of sixteen (16) years as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces".21

* see glossary for information about internet sources

1 Amnesty International Report 2004; Amnesty International (AI), Paraguay: No child's play – Under-age recruitment in the armed forces must stop, 5 April 2001,

2 Fernando Rojas, El servicio militar obligatorio en Paraguay: Entre la contestación social y la inercia de las instituciones del Estado autoritario, Research and Education in Defense and Security Studies Conference, Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Washington DC, 22-25 May 2001 (REDES 2001), (Programa, Bloque IV, Panel 2).

3 Article 129, Constitution, http://www.georgetown. edu/pdba/Constitutions/Paraguay/para1992. html.

4 Ley del Servicio Militar Obligatorio, No. 369/75, (Leyes de uso más frequente, Fuerzas públicas).

5 Coalición para acabar con la utilización de niños soldados Paraguay (Child Soldiers Coalition Paraguay), Situación relativa a los niños y niñas soldados en Paraguay, April 2002,

6 Article 10, Law 369/75, op. cit.; Child Soldiers Coalition Paraguay, op. cit.

7 Latin American Military: Paraguay,

8 Ministry of National Defence, Cimefor Ejército, 2001,

9 Communication from Child Soldiers Coalition Latin America, 18 June 2004.

10 Última Hora, "Mujeres preparan botas", 22 November 2002,; see also Child Soldiers Coalition Latin America, November 2002,

11 Child Soldiers Coalition Paraguay, op. cit.

12 Fernando Rojas, op. cit.

13 Child Soldiers Coalition Paraguay, op. cit.

14 Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay (CODEHUPY), Derechos humanos en Paraguay 2002, Asunción, 2002.

15 CODEHUPY, op. cit.; Amnesty International Report 2002.

16 CODEHUPY, op. cit.

17 Communication from Child Soldiers Coalition Latin America, Paraguay, 18 June 2004.

18 Amnesty International Report 2002.

19 CODEHUPY, op. cit.

20 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Informe No. 82/03, Petición 12330 – Admisibilidad, Marcelino Gómes Paredes y Cristián Ariel Núñez, 22 October 2003,

21 Declaration made by Paraguay on ratification of the Optional Protocol,

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