Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 57,343,000
    – under-18s: 9,976,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – Active: 250,600
    – Reserves: 65,200 – Paramilitary: 252,500
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18 (conscription being phased out)
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: recruitment of under-18s now prohibited; 509 in 1999977
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 6 September 2000; supports "straight-18" position
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II;ICC; ILO 138; ILO 182
  • Recent legislative changes prohibit both compulsory and voluntary recruitment of under-18s.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 52 of the 1948 Constitution states that "the defence of the country is a moral duty of every citizen. Military service is compulsory within the limits and in the manner laid down by law".978 Military service lasts for 10 months and is regulated by laws of 1936, 1964, 1975 and 1986. All men over 18 are liable for military service which they can perform in the armed forces, the military police, fire brigades or police.979

There have been a number of legislative changes in recent years in order to professionalise the Italian armed forces. A law on armed forces reform (No. 331 of 14 November 2000) has been passed. The plan adopts a phased approach for ending conscription but allows for the re-establishment of military service in the case of war or national emergency in accordance with Article 52 of the Constitution. The armed forces are to be completely professionalised by the end of 2005, therefore young people born after 1985 would not be liable for call-up. Law No. 331/2000 allowed voluntary military recruitment under 18 but not the participation of under-18s in armed conflict.980 More recently Law No. 2/2001 prohibited both compulsory and voluntary recruitment of 17-year-olds, bringing Italy in line with the "straight-18" position.

A voluntary military service for women was established by legislative decree n. 24 of 31 January 2000.981 A new voluntary service of one year has been proposed to allow young people to "explore the military world". Unlike conscripts, these young people will have the possibility of joining international forces. A reform of civil service is also planned in light of the suspension of compulsory military service.982

Military Training and Military Schools

The minimum age to enter military schools or academies is 13 or 14 but pupils are not members of the armed forces.983 Other sources indicate that the minimum age is usually 17 with the consent of parents.984


See the country file for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for details of recruitment by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Bari.


There is no armed conflict in Italy, although the use of children in organised crime by groups such as the Mafia is of concern. It has been reported that children as young as 11 are taught to assemble and use weapons. G. Tinebra, the Chief Public Prosecutor of Caltanissetta, Sicily, reported testimony from a 17-year-old Mafia informer who acted as a lookout for two murders. The chief of the police of this city said that children in the Mafia are usually used in support roles, acting as lookouts and collecting weapons. He added that the age at which youths start to kill has reduced significantly.985


International Standards

The Italian government signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 6 September 2000 and, with recent legislative changes, now supports the "straight-18" position.986

977 Numbers according to Ministry of Defence as stated in fax from Deputy Minister to Italian Coalition dated 20/6/00.

978 Blaustein and Flanz op. cit.

979 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

980 Information provided by Italian Coalition on 10/4/01.

981 Ibid.

982 Council of Ministers. Communicato No. 58, 3/9/99; Council of Ministers, Communicato, 4/9/99, 12:30; "Lega obbligatoria addio. Il Governo approva l'esercito di rofessionisti", Yahoo! Notizie, 3/9/99; Nese, M", "Soldati e soldatesse, professionisti", Corriere della Sera, 4/9/99; "Don Damoli: tutto cancellato in un colpo solo", Corriere della Sera, 4/9/99; "Le ultime chiamate saranno entro il 2004", Corriere della Sera, 4/9/99; Galluzzo, M. "Il volontariato: così muore il servizio civile", Corriere della Sera, 4/9/99; Nascimbeni, G. "La naia? Anche l'etimologia è 'negativa'", Corriere della Sera, 5/9/99; Zuccolini R. "Cosi salveremo il servizio civile", Corriere della Sera, 5/9/99.

983 Ibid.

984 Italian Coalition op. cit.

985 Willen, P., "Mafia sets up crime academy to train child assassins", Guardian Weekly, 19-25/8/99.

986 ILO, Report IV (2A), International Labour Conference, 87th session, Geneva, 6/99.


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