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Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Serbia and Montenegro

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Serbia and Montenegro, 2004, available at: [accessed 23 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.

Serbia and Montenegro (until February 2003 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 10.5 million (2.5 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 74,200
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 16
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 31 January 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

Military law permitted recruits to volunteer for the armed services in the calendar year in which they turn 17, although it was not clear whether they could start military service while they were 16. During a state of war, the minimum age for conscription could be lowered to 17.


Under a new Constitutional Charter, in February 2003 the country's name was changed from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to Serbia and Montenegro. The two semi-independent states jointly control defence and foreign policy. In March 2003 Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Dindic was assassinated and the government declared a state of emergency during which thousands were detained.1 In March 2004 Kosovo – which remained under the administration of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) – experienced serious inter-ethnic violence and attacks on minorities.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

The Law on the Yugoslav Army, renamed the Armed Forces of Serbia and Montenegro under the Constitutional Charter, specifies that males are eligible for conscription from the calendar year they turn 18 to the age of 27 (Articles 291 and 301). The armed forces state that conscripts do not usually commence service until they reach 21, although a "large number" ask to start earlier. A volunteer may be recruited "in the calendar year in which he turns 17", the year in which he is required to have his name registered for conscription. However, it was not clear whether volunteers must have reached 17 or whether the law permits 16 year olds to begin service. During a state of war, by order of the President, the minimum age of conscription may be lowered and recruits may be enlisted in the year they turn 17.3

In June 2003 the Supreme Defence Council reduced the period of conscription by 30 days to eight months.4 The Constitutional Charter permits conscripts to serve in their respective republics (Article 57).5 On ratifying the Optional Protocol in January 2003, Serbia and Montenegro declared that the Penal Code of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and its constituent republics contained safeguards ensuring that "the recruitment of underage persons will not be forced or coerced".6

Kosovo remains part of the state of Serbia and Montenegro, administered by the UN, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Owing to its unresolved status, Kosovo has no armed forces.7 Security is maintained by the Kosovo Force (KFOR), a NATO-led mission under a UN mandate.8

Military training and military schools

A Military Grammar School provides students with a preparatory education to enable and motivate them to enter higher military academies. A Secondary Military School appears to offer children a direct entry route into the armed forces, providing a professional education lasting three or four years, vocational training for two years, vocational training improvement for a year, and a one-year special advanced training after graduation. The vocational education program trains pupils directly for professional military service in a variety of units, ranging from the infantry to nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. On completing up to eight years of training, students are awarded the rank of sergeant and admitted to professional military service. The minimum entrance ages for the secondary schools and the Armed Forces Military Academy were not known.9

Armed political groups

The Albanian National Army, a paramilitary unit, was reportedly active in southern Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia, although it faced significant pressure from the security forces, particularly in late 2003, and its activities were minimal. There were no reports of under-18s among its members, who were mostly veterans of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army and other armed political groups.10

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

2 UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK),; Amnesty International Report 2004.

3 Constitutional Charter of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (Articles 54-58), at Armed Forces, http://www.vj.yu (Regulations, Constitution); Armed Forces (Military obligation); Declaration made by Serbia and Montenegro on ratification of the Optional Protocol,

4 FoNet, "Serbia-Montenegro president shortens military service by 30 days", 10 June 2003, reported in South East European Security Monitor, Centre for South East European Studies, (SEE Security Monitor); Armed forces, Filling the ranks, http://www.vj.yu (Structure).

5 Constitutional Charter, op. cit.

6 Declaration, op. cit.

7 Communication from UNMIK, 21 May 2004.

8 KFOR information,

9 Armed forces, Military schools, http://www.vj.yu (Education).

10 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Armed Conflict Database, Kosovo entry (subscribers only); International Crisis Group, Pan-Albanianism: How big a threat to Balkan stability?, Europe Report No. 153, 25 February 2004,

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