Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 09:48 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Sweden

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Sweden, 2004, 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.

Kingdom of Sweden

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 8.9 million (1.9 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 27,600
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 20 February 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. Children participate in military training programs from the age of 15.


During demonstrations at the European Union summit in Gothenburg in June 2001 police reportedly used excessive force against demonstrators. In 2002 the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Comittee against Torture expressed concern about several cases of serious injury and deaths in custody as a result of excessive use of force by police or prison personnel. In 2003 the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) also raised concerns about ill-treatment in police custody and the isolation of detainees.1 A small contingent of Swedish troops participated in the multinational force belonging to the UN-established and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF).2


National recruitment legislation and practice

The legal basis for conscription is the 1994 Total Defence Act.3 Total defence, as defined in the 1992 Act on Increased Emergency Preparedness, involves military and civilian preparedness in the event of war. Everyone aged between 16 and 70 is liable for total defence service, which can be performed in a civilian, voluntary or military capacity.4 All Swedish men aged between 18 and 24 are required to enrol for military service. Every year about 50,000 young men are registered. Most are not selected and form a reserve pool. In 2004 around 16,000 young men began national service in the armed forces. The duration of training varies depending on the type of service: most conscripts train for between seven and a half and 15 months.5 Conscientious objectors may perform civilian service in the community and, in wartime, are assigned to the civil defence system, which includes health care and rescue services.6

On 1 July 2002 the Swedish Emergency Management Agency was set up to coordinate preparations for peacetime emergencies and an increased level of alert. Voluntary defence organizations that recruit and train civilians include officer training organizations such as the Voluntary Military Cadre Training, and bodies such as the Voluntary Rifle Clubs Organization and the Red Cross. The Home Guard is made up of volunteers who receive a basic military training and is part of the armed forces. The General Home Guard protects strategic installations, and the Industrial Home Guard protects government enterprises and bodies.7 The Home Guard has an estimated 73,000 members, and a further 60,000 volunteers are contracted to serve in the total defence system in the event of mobilization.

When Sweden ratified the Optional Protocol in February 2003, it declared that "the minimum age required for voluntary recruitment into the Swedish armed forces is eighteen (18) years".8

Military training and military schools

Young people aged between 15 and 20 may take part in pre-military training provided by voluntary defence organizations in line with demands from the armed forces. Training is usually at a military site at weekends, and parental consent is required for children under 18. Participants are not considered members of the armed forces, but it is unclear whether they might be drafted in the event of mobilization.9 Although such training is said to comply with Ministry of Defence rules based on the Optional Protocol, it appears that children may receive weapons training with ordinary guns from the age of 15 and with automatic weapons from 17.10


In its third report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Sweden reported that the government had drawn up national guidelines on making healthcare accessible to children seeking asylum, and was funding a Red Cross project to help children and young people affected by war and conflict.11

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

2 "Swedish Troops in northern Afghanistan" press release 2 July 2004, Swedish Armed Forces,

3 Totalförsvarsplikt (Total Defence Act), 15 December 1994, SFS 1994,

4 Defence system,

5 Swedish Armed Forces, op. cit. (Facts and figures); Interview with Pliktverket (National Service Administration), Ingvar Ahlstrand, 2004.

6 Government offices of Sweden, (Areas of responsibility, Defence).

7 Swedish Armed Forces, op. cit.

8 Declaration made by Sweden on ratification of the Optional Protocol,

9 Information from Rädda Barnen (Save the Children – Sweden), 11 May 2004.

10 Centralförbundet för Befälsutbildung (Central Association for Voluntary Officer Training (FBU)), (Rules for weapons training).

11 Third periodic report of Sweden to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/125/Add.1 (due for consideration by the Committee in January 2005).

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