Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 20:36 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - El Salvador

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - El Salvador, 2001, available at: [accessed 18 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.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 6,154,000
    – under-18s: 5,063,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 16,800
    – reserves: ex-soldiers registered
    – paramilitary: 12,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 16
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 18 September 2000
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II; ILO 138; ILO 182
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces since voluntary recruitment can take place from the age of sixteen. During the civil war, some 80 per cent of government and 20 per cent of opposition forces were estimated to be children.


National Recruitment Legislation

Article 215 of the 1983 Constitution states that "military service is compulsory for all Salvadorans between 18 and 30 years old." The Law on Military Service and Reserve Armed Forces of July 1992 adopted shortly after the peace treaty ending the civil war, governs recruitment into the armed forces,649 although the regulation of 'cases of necessity' is included in the Law on Armed Forces.650

The treaty itself prohibited forced recruitment in favour of military service based on universality, obligation, equity and non-discrimination.651 The 1992 Law requires all men to register for their military service at the age of 18 and further stipulates that selection of recruits is to be made by ballot. In 1994 the Government made women liable for military service, although they are not required to serve in a combat capacity.652 According to information provided to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Articles 2 and 6 of the Military Service and Armed Forces Reserve Act regulate voluntary military service between the ages of 16 and 18.653

Past Child Recruitment and Deployment

During the civil war, children were forcibly recruited into the armed forces, notably from poor suburbs and in the rural areas. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of troops were under 18 years of age. The opposition force Farabundo Marti Liberation National Front (FMLN) also recruited children; it was estimated that 20 per cent of the FMLN combatants were under 18.654

One commentator reported that the reintegration of former child soldiers has not been fully successful due to lack of support from the international community and lack of follow-up at the national and international level.655 In 1999 UNICEF reported that 61 per cent of FMLN children were not integrated into the demobilization programme. Among those who did pass through this programme, only 5 per cent completed the education programme.656

The phenomenon of youth gangs and youth crime has become more significant in the country since the war, although according to one study only a few of these youths are former child combatants.657


International Standards

El Salvador signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 18 September 2000 but does not support the "straight-18" position.

In its concluding observations on El Salvador's 1993 report, the Committee on the Rights of the Child said "there was a need to consider seriously questions relating to the legal definition of the child, in particular the minimum age for ... military service".658

649 Ley del Servicio Militar y Reserva de la Fuerza Armada, D.L. No. 298, 30/7/92.

650 Article 6, Ley organica de la Fuerza Armada, D.L. No. 353, 9/7/98.

651 The Peace Treaty is available on the internet at textos acuerdosPaz.htm.

652 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

653 Initial Report of El Salvador to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc.CRC/C/15/Add.9, 18/10/93.

654 Leskinen, Reeta, 1995 quoted by Horeman and Stolwijk.

655 Statement of Dr. F. Melendez (Technical Cooperation Project on Human Rights) at the Latin American and Caribbean Conference on the Use of the Children as Soldiers, Montevideo, Uruguay, 5-7/7/99.

656 Statement of J.C. Legrand, UNICEF to the Latin American and Caribbean Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, Montevideo, Uruguay, 5-7/7/99.

657 De Cesar, D; "The Children of War : Street Gangs in El Salvador", NACLA, Vol XXXII, No. 1 7/8/98.

658 Concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UNDOC CRC/C/15/Add.9, 18/10/93.

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