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Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Sweden

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Sweden, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 11 December 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.

Population: 9.0 million (1.9 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 27,600
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 20 February 2003
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed services, although children could participate in military training programs from the age of 15.


National recruitment legislation and practice

All residents of Sweden between the ages of 16 and 70 were liable for compulsory military, civilian or national service under the terms of the 1994 National Total Defence Service Act. Compulsory military service was performed in the armed forces and compulsory civilian service in support of the civilian dimension of the Total Defence, defined as "the protection of Swedish society in times of crisis or war".1 The obligation to compulsory national service applied only in a time of officially declared emergency preparedness. Compulsory military and civilian service was limited to those who were 18 years old or older, and compulsory national service was restricted to those who had reached the age of 16. As part of the Total Defence, 16-year-olds were prohibited from performing any tasks that could constitute an aspect of military defence.2 All Swedish men of 18 to 47 were liable for military service, which lasted for seven and a half months. Of the approximately 50,000 young men of conscription age 40 per cent were recruited each year. The right to conscientious objection to military service was guaranteed on the basis of the 1994 Total Defence Service Act. Objectors were required to perform a substitute service, also of seven and a half months' duration.3

Military training and military schools

Sweden's Armed Forces held voluntary youth courses aimed at informing young people between the ages of 15 and 20 about the Total Defence and career opportunities. Young people under the age of 18 at the time of application had to have the permission of a parent or guardian to participate in these activities. While 15-year-olds were permitted to participate in firearms training, training with automatic weapons was restricted to those aged 17 or above. The government emphasized that "these activities do not involve voluntary recruitment to the armed forces", and are "only aimed at providing information about, and promoting interest in, the Total Defence".4 However, in 2007 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child encouraged the government to raise the minimum age for firearms training in these voluntary activities to 18, in keeping with the spirit of the Optional Protocol.5


In July 2004, Chapter 4, Section 1(a) of the Penal Code, regarding the cross-border trafficking of human beings for sexual purposes, was extended to include "non-cross-border human trafficking and the trafficking in human beings for the purpose of forms of exploitation other than for sexual purposes, for example, for war service and forced labour".6 In December 2005 the government mandated the Swedish Migration Board to include the compulsory recruitment of child soldiers in its consideration of forms of persecution concerning children in the asylum process. As part of a reform of its Penal Code to allow for the greater integration of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court into domestic law and practice, Sweden undertook to "criminalize, as a war crime, the recruitment of children under the age of 15 years into the national armed forces or the use of such children for the active participation in hostilities". As a result, "the recruitment and use of child soldiers in hostilities, both within and outside Sweden, is deemed to be an offence according to Swedish law".7 In 2007 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that these proposed reforms be completed as swiftly as possible.8

At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Sweden and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.

1 Initial report of Sweden to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the Optional Protocol, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/SWE/1, 10 July 2006; Swedish Armed Forces, "The Facts 2006-2007",

2 Initial report, above note 1.

3 Quaker Council for European Affairs, The Right to Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Europe: A Review of the Current Situation, April 2005.

4 Initial report, above note 1.

5 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Sweden on implementation of the Optional Protocol, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/SWE/CO/1, 8 June 2007.

6 Initial report, above note 1.

7 Ibid.

8 Concluding observations, above note 5.

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