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

  • Population:
    – total: 5,358,000
    – under-18s: 2,503,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 20,200
    – reserves: 164,500
    – paramilitary: 14,800
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18
  • Voting age for government elections: 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces – 10,400 in 2000
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 13 September 2000 but does not uphold "straight-18"
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II, ILO 182
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces. Despite clear legal prohibitions, the recruitment of children between 12 and 17 is widespread. There are also reports of ill-treatment and deaths in questionable circumstances of under-age recruits.


In May 2000 members of two army units and a group of national police officers loyal to former General Lino Oviedo attempted to overthrow President Gonzalez Macchi. The attempted coup lasted less than one day and the majority of the military remained loyal to the Government.1464


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 129 of the 1992 Constitution makes military service compulsory. It is regulated by Law 569 of 24 December 1975 and is performed in either the armed forces or the national police.1465 All men over 18 are liable for military service, which lasts one year.1466 In case of international armed conflict, Article 129 mandates that women must assist the armed forces. No minimum age is provided in this case.1467 Article 56 of Law 569/75 states that: "Authorities who recruit minors younger than 18 (...) without affecting their penal responsibility, will be removed or deemed unfit for public positions for five years".1468

In 1995 the then Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Ing. Wasmosy, ordered that no more children should be recruited into the armed forces.1469 This order, reiterating Paraguayan law, was later also issued by the government of Raúl Cubas Grau in March 1999.1470

Child Recruitment

Despite clear legal provisions prohibiting the recruitment of children under the age of 18, the armed forces and police have forcibly recruited children between the ages of 12 and 17, sometimes forcibly or by falsifying their identity papers.1471 Such recruitment frequently involves visiting rural areas to forcibly round-up conscripts.1472 In many cases recruitment takes place after intimidating the parents of children with "good physical appearance".1473 Servicio Paz y Justicia Paraguay (Serpaj-Py) estimated in 2000 that 80% of conscripts are under the age of 18 (roughly 10,400 people), of these approximately 30.3% (4,000) are 15 years or under and their average age is 16.4 years.1474

Cases of ill-treatment and torture of under-age recruits, resulting in death or physical and psychological damage, continue to be reported.1475 Between 1996 and 2000, 56 under-18s died during military service.1476 Military service has been described by the Asociación de Familiares de Víctimas del Servicio Militar Obligatorio (AFAVISEM) as a "graveyard" of teenagers. At least eight recruits – six under the age of 18 – died in questionable circumstances in 2000. AFAVISEM highlighted the inadequate conditions under which conscripts carry out military service, including failure to meet basic needs such as providing food, beds, medical attention, medicines and dental care. Accidents and illness are also the main causes of deaths of under-18 conscripts according to Serpaj-Py.1477

Deaths of under-18s during military service have included a 17-year-old conscript who died in July 2000 as a result of inadequate medical attention after receiving a gunshot wound to his foot.1478 Similarly, Héctor Adán Maciel died at the age of 17 while fulfilling military service on 3 April 2001, due to the inadequate medical care he received after being shot by a fellow conscript; the Armed Forces argued that the necessary treatment in an intensive care unit was too expensive, and refused to pay.1479 14-year-old Pedro Centurión was shot and killed in September 2000; military officials maintain that Centurión committed suicide.1480 In 1998 two youths aged 4 and 15 "disappeared" while on military service. The reason for their disappearance was not determined; the Armed Forces maintained the conscripts had run away and as such were considered deserters under military law.1481 In another case, two sergeants allegedly forced 15-year-old Cesar Francisco Pereira to fight another recruit, while the sergeants wagered on the fight. After losing, Pereira alleged that he was pistol whipped by the sergeant who lost the bet and had to spend a month in a clinic recovering from the injuries sustained.1482

Prompted by Héctor Adán Maciel's death a group of senators and NGOs visited military units in Chaco on 30 April 2001 and confirmed the presence of under-18s.1483 Maciel had been recruited when he was just 16 years old. The armed forces apparently falsified his mother's signature on documents where her consent was required.1484 After the death of Centurión, the records of at least 100 other underage recruits whose ages had been altered were found at Vista Alegre barracks.1485 Centurión was allegedly recruited at age 13 against his wishes through the use of false documents, and was later discovered to be an Argentine citizen.1486

Relatives of conscripts who have died during military service are reportedly intimidated by the Armed Forces. In order to hand over Pedro Centurión's body the Armed forces demanded his mother sign a document promising not to ask for an autopsy. She was threatened that if she refused, her son's brain would have to be operated on to find the bullet and he would be cut up ("descuartizado").1487

In November 2000, the Government proposed an agreement to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepting responsibility for the 1998 deaths of two 14-year-old military recruits, Cristián Nuñez and Marcelino Gomez. In this case, the two boys were abandoned by military officers in the inhospitable Chaco region during military exercises.1488


International Standards

Paraguay signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 13 September 2000 but does not uphold the "straight-18" position.

1464 See US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2000: Paraguay, Feb. 2001. See also, AI Annual Report 2000.

1465 Horeman, B. & Stolwijk, Refusing to Bear Arms: A World Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to military Service, War resisters International, London, 1998.

1466 SERPAJ Paraguay, Servicio Militar, Ninos soldados y Derechos Humanos en Paraguay, Informe, 1898-1999.

1467 Ibid.

1468 Radda Barnen,

1469 The orders were given on 10/03/95 and 12/06/95.

1470 Circular No. 2 of 6 March 1999.

1471 Concluding Observations of the Committee of the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.75, para. 17, 18/06/97.

1472 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. "Third Report on the situation of Human rights in Paraguay" OEA/Ser.L/VII.110, 9/03/01.

1473 Ibid.

1474 Servicio Paz y Justicia Paraguay (Serpaj-Py), "Derechos Humanos y Paraguay 2000.

1475 AI. Paraguay – Conscription: Recruitment of children, routine ill-treatment and unexplained deaths. AMR 45/002/2001, April 2001.

1476 Economia. "Maxima inseguridad en los cuarteles. La muerte absurda de Hector Adan Maciel", 15/0401.

1477 Ultima Hora. "Inseguridad en las FFAA. Soldados mueren mas por accidentes". 26 April 2001.

1478 AI. Paraguay – Conscription: Recruitment of children, routine ill-treatment and unexplained deaths. AMR 45/002/2001, April 2001.

1479 La Nacion. "FF AA habrian falsificado firma de la madre de soldao fallecido. 18/04/01.

1480 US Department of State, op. cit.

1481 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. "Third Report on the situation of Human rights in Paraguay. OEA/Ser.L/VII.110, 9/03/01.

1482 US Department of State, op. cit.

1483 ABC Color. "Habria menores en cuarteles de Chaco. 30 April 2001.

1484 La Nacion. "FF AA habrian falsificado firma de la madre de soldao fallecido. 18/04/01.

1485 ABC Color, 27 /09/00.

1486 US Department of State, op. cit.

1487 AI. Paraguay – Conscription: Recruitment of children, routine ill-treatment and unexplained deaths. AMR 45/002/2001, April 2001.

1488 US Department of State, op. cit.

1489 Clarin Digital. "A mi hijo lo secuestraron y no se suicido. 17/09/01.


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