Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 08:43 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - El Salvador

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - El Salvador, 2004, available at: [accessed 17 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.

Republic of El Salvador

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 6.4 million (2.6 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 15,500
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 16 (with parental consent)
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 18 April 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182

Seventeen year olds must register for military service, for which all men and women are liable from the age of 18. Under-18s can volunteer for military service from the age of 16.


The government responded to continuing high levels of violence with repressive measures, while failing to address the underlying causes of dramatic social and economic inequality and the ready availability of firearms.1 Action against maras (gangs) included the Get Tough Plan of July 2003 and the Anti-Maras Act, Decree 158 of 9 October 2003. The Office of the Human Rights Procurator (Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos) and human rights organizations said these measures permitted human rights violations. Under the Anti-Maras Act, for example, membership of a gang is "illegal association" and suspects under 18 may be treated as adults at the discretion of the prosecuting authorities.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution states that military service is compulsory for all Salvadoreans between 18 and 30 years old (Article 215).3

Under the Armed Forces Military and Reserve Service Act, all Salvadorean men and women aged between 18 and 30 are liable for military service. With parental consent, under-18s may volunteer for military service from the age of 16 (Articles 2, 6 and 11). All males must register for military service one month after they turn 17, and are then randomly selected through a lottery system (Articles 11 and 17).4 Women have been liable for military service since 1994 although they are not required to serve in combat.5

In practice military service has been voluntary since the end of the armed conflict in January 1992.6

Military training and military schools

Students wishing to pursue a career in the armed forces may enrol at the Capitán General Gerardo Barrios Military School between the ages of 17 and 20 for a two-year training program. There was little information about the military training under-18s received at the school.7

1 Amnesty International Report 2004, http://web.

2 Diario Colatino, "PDDH recomienda retomar ley del Servicio Militar", 28 July 2003,; Amnesty International, El Salvador: Open letter on the Anti-Maras Act, 1 December 2003; Noticias Casa Alianza, Comisión Interamericana analizará Guerra anti-maras, 29 February 2004,

3 Constitution,

4 Ley del Servicio Militar y Reserva de la Fuerza Armada, Legislative Decree No. 298 of 30 July 1992, (Búsqueda por materia, Leyes de securidad pública); Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

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

6 Second periodic report of El Salvador to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/65/Add.25, 22 October 2003,

7 El Diario de Hoy, "Ingresa 179a. promoción en Escuela Militar", 7 January 2004,; Escuela Militar Capitán General Gerardo Barrios,

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