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Paraguay: Military service, including consequences faced by conscripts for leaving the military without authorization and whether there is alternative service for conscientious objectors (2001 to August 2004)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 18 August 2004
Citation / Document Symbol PRY42888.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Paraguay: Military service, including consequences faced by conscripts for leaving the military without authorization and whether there is alternative service for conscientious objectors (2001 to August 2004), 18 August 2004, PRY42888.E, available at: [accessed 18 February 2018]
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Legal texts

The Paraguayan constitution makes provisions for the right to conscientious objection, military service, and the jurisdiction of the military courts in articles 37, 129 and 174 respectively (20 June 1992). They are as follows:

Article 37 About the Right to Conscientious Objection

The right to conscientious objection for ethical or religious reasons is hereby recognized for those cases in which this Constitution and the law permit it.

Article 129 About Military Service

(1) Every Paraguayan must be prepared for and must complete his services for the armed defense of the Fatherland.

(2) To this end, mandatory military service is hereby established. A law will regulate the conditions under which this duty will be discharged.

(3) Military service must be based on full respect of human dignity. In time of peace, it will not exceed 12 months.

(4) Women will not be required to provide military service but as aides, if necessary, during an armed international conflict.

(5) Those who declare conscientious objection will provide services to benefit the civilian population, in aid centers designated by law and operated under civilian jurisdiction. The law implementing the right to conscientious objection will be neither punitive nor impose burdens heavier than those imposed by military service.

(6) Personal military service, not determined by law or which is set up for the benefit or profit of private citizens or organizations, is hereby prohibited.

(7) The law will regulate the contribution of foreigners to national defense.

Article 174 About Military Courts

(1) Military courts will hear only crimes and disciplinary violations of military nature, which according to the law, were committed by military personnel on active duty. Their decisions can be overturned by courts of law.

(2) When the offense in question is punishable both under civilian and military penal laws, it will not be considered to be a military crime, unless it was committed by a serviceman on active duty while discharging his military duties.

(3) In cases where there is doubt as to whether a crime is civilian or military, it will be considered to be civilian. Only in cases of an armed international conflict and in no other form as prescribed by law, military courts may have jurisdiction over civilians and retired military personnel (Paraguay 20 June 1992).

Article 129 of the constitution is regulated by Law 569/75 of 24 December 1975 and allows for military service for those 18 years of age or older to be performed within the armed forces or the national police (Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers n.d.). Attempts to obtain a copy of the Law 569/75 from the Embassy of Paraguay in Ottawa were unsuccessful.

Country Reports 2003 states that women were being admitted to the National Military Academy for the first time (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5).

Penalties for desertion

The Code of Military Justice and Law 569/75 punish those who evade or desert the military (CONCODOC 13 May 1998). In times of peace, persons who evade or desert might be called to serve an additional six-month period to the one-year period required by law; they also cannot receive any professional qualification or vote until this additional period of service has been fulfilled (ibid.). The penalty for deserters in times of war can be execution (ibid.). The CONCODOC Website stated that it was unclear whether the authorities deliberately sought deserters (ibid.).

Conscientious objection

ADITAL, a news agency linked to the Brazilian Catholic Church and that writes on popular movements and human rights in Latin America, reported that since 1993, there have been close to 90,000 conscientious objectors in Paraguay; in 2001 alone, over 45,000 persons had declared themselves conscientious objectors (18 Apr. 2002). Despite the legal provisions for conscientious objection, the government has yet to implement a legal framework guiding the armed forces on how to deal with conscientious objectors (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 1f; n.d.).

Recruitment of minors

While Country Reports 2003 states that minors were still being conscripted into the armed forces, despite efforts by the government to curb the practice (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, intro.), Human Rights Watch reported that by 2003, the campaign to recruit minors into the armed forces had stopped (Jan. 2004). A Paraguayan Senate-led investigation carried out in 2001 and 2002 concluded that 200 children were active in military barracks (HRW Jan. 2004). The military, however, implemented a policy requiring that all conscripts be at least 18 years of age (ibid.; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, section 1a). According to Country Reports 2003, since this policy came into effect, no death of recruits has been reported (ibid.).

Treatment of conscripts

In a report prepared for the Research and Education in Defense and Security Studies (REDES) of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies' Panel on Military Service on 22 to 25 May 2001, Fernando Rojas stated that only two sergeants and one non-commissioned officer had been punished for human rights violations of conscripts. These officials had been prosecuted for being the authors of homicide in cases allegedly involving accidental gunfire wounds (REDES 2001). For all other reported cases of [translation] "torture and mistreatment, forced recruitment and enslaved conscripts," there have been no indictments of military personnel by the military tribunals (ibid.). The Paraguayan non-governmental organization, SERPAJ, reported in early 2002 that 107 conscripts had died since the end of the dictatorship in 1989 (Latinamerica Press 14 Jan. 2002). SERPAJ reported that, in November 2001, a soldier, who had left his barracks without authorization, died from a gunfire incident just days after being returned to his post (ibid.). SERPAJ labelled the death "suspicious," and that it could have been a punishment within a system that does not investigate and that supports impunity (ibid.).

Country Reports 2003 states that some conscripts were forced to work in construction projects operated by military officials (25 Feb. 2004, section 6c).

Alternative service

In January 2002, Latinamerica Press reported that the military was calling on the government to implement an alternative service to military service for conscientious objectors, such as a community services program, as a means to discourage persons from seeking the status (14 Jan. 2002). In May 2003, the Paraguayan Senate rejected and archived a bill that would regulate conscientious objection (La Nación 30 May 2003). The rejection put a definite end to several attempts to regulate the status since the constitution was approved in 1992 (ibid.). The bill sought to provide alternative civil service for conscientious objectors, such as community assistance to the sick, youth, the disabled, and others; the bill was denounced by a majority of the senators and conscientious objectors, who viewed it as forced military service, and for violating fundamental individual freedoms (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agência de Informação Frei Tito para a América Latina (ADITAL). 18 April 2002. "Conscientious Objection Movement." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. N.d. "Paraguay." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

Conscription and Conscientious Objection Documentation (CONCODOC). 13 May 1998. "Paraguay." [Accessed 20 July 2004]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. United States Department of State, Washington, DC. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2003]

Human Rights Watch. January 2004. Children as Weapons of War. [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 14 January 2002. "Paraguay: Objecting to the Military." (NEXIS)

La Nación [Asunción]. 30 May 2003. "Senado achivó proyecto de objeción al servicio militar." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004] N.d. "Encyclopedia: Military of Paraguay." [Accessed 17 July 2004]

Paraguay. 20 June 1992. "Paraguay – Constitution." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

Research and Education in Defense and Security Studies (REDES). 2001. Francisco Rojas. "El Servicio Obligatorio en Paraguay." [Accessed 13 Aug. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: ABC Color, Amnesty International, Derechos, Freedom House, SERPAJ, Social Watch, War Resisters' International

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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