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

  • Population:
    – total: 11,160,000
    – under-18s: 2,857,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 58,000
    – reserves: 39,000
    – paramilitary(active): 26,500
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 16/17 (unclear)
  • Voluntary recruitment age: unknown
  • Voting age (government elections): 16
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 13 November 2000; does not support "straight-18" position
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces. The government has in the past taken a position that 17 should be the minimum recruitment age.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 64 of the Cuban Constitution states that: "Defence of the socialist homeland is the greatest honour and the supreme duty of every Cuban citizen. The law regulates the military service which Cubans must do." Military conscription is regulated by the 1973 law on general military service (Servicio Militar Activo y el de Reserva).519 It has not been possible to obtain a copy of the relevant legislation and sources cite differing ages for minimum recruitment age. According to Article 67 of the Law on National Defence, all citizens between 17 and 28 years of age must perform military service for two years.520 Seventeen years is also the minimum age for conscription indicated in Cuba's initial report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1996,521 and in a statement to the Commission on Human Rights in 2000.522

However, differing information is provided in a 1999 UN report, stating that all citizens aged 16 to 50 are liable for three years of military service.523 Human Rights Watch has also stated that Cuba's minimum age for compulsory recruitment is 16.524 Other sources have reported that men between 16 and 27 are liable for military service;525 in one case, the son of a dissident was allegedly recruited when he had just celebrated his 16th birthday.526

The duration of the military service was reduced from three years to two in July 1991.527 Military service can be performed in the Cuban armed forces or in the National Revolutionary Police Force which is run by the Ministry of Interior. In practice, only men have to perform military service and the government has indicated that they are allowed to complete their service in two years in order to study a profession.528 Special measures have been taken in order to guarantee the right of women to take part in defence activities, both as professional soldiers and through Women's Voluntary Military Service for a period of two years.529

There have been several allegations of the mistreatment of young conscripts, including specifically in Ganusa prison where conscripts between 17 and 21 years of age are detained for going absent without leave from their military base.530

Other reports indicate that the military assigns some conscripts to the Youth Labour Army where they serve their 2-year requirement working on farms that supply both the armed forces and the civilian population.531 According to Law No. 75, the activities carried out in this form of service are part of compulsory military service. This has led the ILO to conclude that service in the Youth Labour Army is a violation of the ILO Convention No. 29.532

Military Training and Military Schools

There are several military academies and schools which train officers and specialist members of the armed forces. There is no information available on the age of entry into these institutions.533


International Standards

Cuba signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 13 November 2000 but does not support a "straight-18" position. During negotiations on the CRC-OP-CAC, Cuba supported 17 as a minimum age for compulsory recruitment.534

519 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

520 Ley No. 75 de la Defensa Nacional of 21/12/94.

521 Initial report of Cuba to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/ C/8/Add.30, 14/2/96.

522 E/CN.4/2000/74, 27/3/00 Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-sixth session Agenda item 13, paragraph 55 and 91.

523 Report of the Secretary General, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1997/99, op. cit.

524 HRW, Cuba's Repressive Machinery, Human Rights Forty Years After the Revolution , 6/99.

525 Castillo, M. P., "Requiem por el servicio militar obligatorio", Cubanet, 7/12/98.

526 Zuniga, J. "Hostigan a hijo de disidentes", APIC, 7/1/98.

527 Castillo, M. P., op. cit.

528 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

529 Castillo, M. P., op. cit.

530 Llorente, F., "Tratos inhumanos y degradantes en prision militar de 'Ganusa'", Diario Las Americas, 27-28/2/99.

531 HRW op. cit.


533 http://

534…, E/CN.4/1998/102, 23/3/98, paragraph 73 (d); E/CN.4/2000/74, 27/3/00 Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-sixth session Agenda item 13, paragraph 55 and 91.


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