Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Holy See

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Holy See, 2004, available at: [accessed 21 October 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.

Holy See

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 1,000
Government armed forces: 100 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 19
Voting age: not applicable
Optional Protocol: ratified 24 October 2001
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II

There were no under-18s in the armed forces.


National recruitment legislation and practice

The Swiss Guard is the world's smallest and oldest army, consisting of about 100 men, five officers and a chaplain, and dating back to 1506. There is no conscription. Soldiers can volunteer between the ages of 19 and 30. Most serve for two years, but may extend their service to up to 25 years. Among the required qualifications are that candidates must have completed basic military training in Switzerland. Their main duties are guarding the Pope and the Vatican.1

International standards

The Holy See supports the "straight-18" position. When ratifying the Optional Protocol on 24 October 2001, it declared that the minimum age for recruitment to the Swiss Guard was 19.2


The Holy See expressed concern on many occasions about the exploitation of children in armed conflict. In May 2001 Pope John Paul II sent a message of solidarity to a forthcoming UN symposium on children in armed conflict.3 On 23 October 2001 Archbishop Renato R. Martino, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, urged other states to ratify the Optional Protocol and "to join in furthering the legal protection of children.... Unfortunately, too many of the world's children are affected by war and conflict every day of their lives. They all bear the physical and psychological scars which might be the result of direct involvement as combatants and child soldiers or through abduction, abuse, separation from family, malnutrition and lost educational opportunities."4 In a 2004 message devoted to children, marking the Christian holy season of Lent, the Pope made reference to those "young people who have been profoundly hurt by the violence of adults: ... [including] children ... enlisted for combat".5

1 Vatican News Service, http://www.vatican. va/roman_curia/swiss_guard/swissguard/storia.

2 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

3 Message from John Paul II to UN Under-Secretary-General Olara A. Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary General for children and armed conflict, 30 May 2001, http://www.vatican. va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2001.

4 Statement by Permanent Observer of Holy See to the UN, Third Committee of the 56th General Assembly, Item 115: The Promotion and the Protection of the Rights of Children,

5 Papal Lent message 2004, http://www.vatican. va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/messages/lent.

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