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

  • Population:
    – total: 38,740,000
    – under-18s: 9,798,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 217,290
    – reserves: 406,000
    – paramilitary: 21,500
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18 or 17
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 17
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II; ILO 138
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces as compulsory and voluntary recruitment are possible from seventeen.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 85(1) of the 1997 Constitution states that "[I]t is the duty of every Polish citizen to defend the homeland".1550 On the basis of the 1967 Law on Universal Obligation of the Republic of Poland1551 compulsory military service covers men and women (if the latter have skills suitable for military service) who are Polish citizens, starting from 1 January of the calendar year in which they reach the age of 18 years.1552 In accordance with Article 83 of this law, men who have reached the age of 18 and who voluntarily enlisted in the armed forces are also called up for basic military service. Citizens of at least 17 years of age may be called up for military service as candidates to be regular soldiers, if they enlisted voluntarily.1553 It seems that, in practice, women cannot serve in the armed forces.1554

In 1999, a law was adopted to reduce the length of military service from 18 months to 12. This law restricts the basis for temporary or permanent exemption.1555 There are different ways of performing military service and the length of service varies according to the type of service chosen. The 1967 law was apparently under revision in 1994 to remove the possibility of conscripting men under the age of 18,1556 but this amendment is apparently not yet in force.1557

Conscientious objectors are required to perform 24 months of service in public service establishments.1558 Several provisions of the law on conscientious objection are at odds with internationally recognised principles as the length of alternative civilian service is nearly twice the length of military service and the time period in which applications for alternative civilian service can be made is limited to "the time of receiving a call-up order for military service".1559

There are also concerns about living conditions in barracks. A report released by the Supreme Controlling Chamber (a body in charge of investigating the work of all Polish State organs) denounced the appalling hygiene conditions and bad treatment of new recruits by older servicemen: "[i]n some barracks, soldiers, particularly the conscripts, washed only once a week and changed their underwear only once a month". Furthermore, new recruits are harassed and punished by longer-serving soldiers. It is said that officers often prefer to turn a blind eye to such practices "[c]onsidering that they were a useful initiation to military discipline".1560

Modernization of the armed forces is ongoing.1561 The number of professional soldiers is to be increased to about 50 per cent of the total armed forces, increased funds are at be allocated to military education, and that the military education system is to be adapted to new needs.1562

Military Training and Military Schools

Seventeen-year-old Polish citizens are eligible to apply for army studies in professional schools – Army Academies, Officer High Schools, Warrant Officer School or Junior Officer Professional Schools.1563


International Standards

Poland has not signed the CRC-OP-CAC as yet. However, during negotiations on the draft Optional Protocol, Poland supported a "straight-18" ban on military recruitment and participation.1564

Poland made a reservation upon ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the application of Article 38, stating that "[t]he Law of the Republic of Poland shall determine the age from which call-up to military or similar service and participation to military operations are permissible. That age limit may not be lower than the age limit set out in Article 38 of the Convention".1565

1550 Blaustein and Flanz op. cit.

1551 Article 58(1), items 1 and 2, Dziennik Ustaw of 1992, No.4, Text 16.


1553 Article 91, para. 2 of the Law on regular military service of 30/6/70, Dziennik Ustaw of 1992, No. 8, Text 31.

1554 Ombudsman wants action to allow women to join the armed forces", Polish Press Agency, 23/11/98.

1555 Lefèvre, P., "L'armée polonaise fait mouvement vers l'OTAN: le parcours du combattant", Le Soir, 23/10/98; "Sejm meets", Polish News Bulletin, 22/3/99.

1556 Initial report of Poland to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add.11, 31/1/94, para. 39.

1557 Horeman and Stolwijk, op. cit.


1559 AI Report 2000.

1560 Donnet, P. A., "Polish barracks old and dirty, troops stink, report says", AFP International, 17/3/99.

1561, 8/10/00.

1562 Report on Poland's integration with NATO, available on the Internet:


1564 UN document E/CN.4/1998/102, 23/3/98, para. 47.



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