Republic of Chile

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 15.6 million (5.2 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 77,300
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 17; 16 in exceptional circumstances
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 31 July 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182

Under-18s could be recruited into the armed forces with parental consent. There was no information on the number of under-18s serving in the armed forces.


The issue of past human rights violations continued to have a high political and legal profile throughout the reporting period and legal proceedings against former members of the armed forces continued.1 There were reports of ill-treatment of detainees, including minors.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution provides for conscription, stating that "Chileans have the fundamental duty to honour their fatherland, defend its sovereignty and contribute to the preservation of national security.... Military service ... [is] compulsory.... Chileans able to bear arms must be inscribed in the Military Registers, unless they should be legally exempt from this requirement" (Article 22).3

Military service is regulated by the Law on Recruitment and Mobilization of the Chilean Armed Forces, Decree Law No. 2306 of 12 September 1978. The law requires all Chilean men and women between 18 and 45 years of age to perform military service (Article 13).4 They must register for service between 2 January and 30 September of the calendar year in which they are 18.5 Penalties for failing to register or for not responding to the call-up include imprisonment, a doubled length of ordinary service, and denial of state employment or a university education.6 Ordinary military service in the army is for 12 months (for two thirds of conscripts) and 14 months (for the remaining third), 24 months in the navy and 12 months in the air force.7

In practice not all those who register for military service are called up. The armed forces are made up of both professional and conscripted personnel.8 Under a modernization program begun in 2001, the proportion of volunteers is increasing. All 18-year-old males must register for military service, but they are not called up for compulsory service unless there are insufficient volunteers on the register to meet the quotas.9

Articles 71 to 73 of Law No. 2306 regulate voluntary recruitment.10 Students in their third or fourth year of secondary education may volunteer to do their military service before reaching the age of 18. Women have been allowed to volunteer for military service since 1999.11 Chile does not support a "straight-18" position. On ratifying the Optional Protocol on 31 July 2003, Chile declared that "the minimum age for the voluntary recruitment of persons into its national armed forces is 17 or 18 years, and on an exceptional basis persons who have attained 16 years of age and meet certain criteria may participate in such programmes for shorter periods with the prior approval of the Director-General of the General Directorate for National Mobilization of the Ministry of National Defence and with the due consent of the parents or legal guardians".12 Law 2306 does not specify the circumstances in which 16 year olds may be allowed to volunteer.

There was no information available on the number of under-18s in the armed forces.

Military training and military schools

Students choosing to do their military service before they are 18 attend a military instruction course on two Saturdays a month and later take part in a 20-day military training course.13

To enrol in the Bernardo O'Higgins Military School, students must be in or have completed the last year of secondary school, when they are generally aged 17.14 In 2002 there were reports that students at the school had been ill-treated by older students as part of initiation rituals.15 The military authorities and the Minister of Defence promised to investigate the allegations and to ensure that conscripts were not ill-treated.16 The outcome of the investigations was not known.

Candidates must be 18 to enrol in the non-commissioned officers' school (Escuela de Suboficiales).17

* see glossary for information about internet sources

1 Amnesty International Report 2004,

2 Amnesty International Reports 2003 and 2004.

3 Constitution,

4 Ministry of Defence, Compulsory military service, (Servicio militar obligatorio, Obligación de los ciudadanos).

5 Dirección General de Movilización Nacional (General Directorate for National Mobilization), (Requisitos para inscribirse).

6 Dirección General de Movilización Nacional, op. cit. (Consecuencias por no inscribirse, Consecuencias por no presentarse).

7 Ministry of Defence, op. cit. (Preguntas frecuentes).

8 Ministry of Defence, op. cit. (Politica vigente).

9 Dirección General de Movilización Nacional, op. cit. (Nuevo sistema de servicio militar).

10 Ministry of Defence, op. cit. (Modalidades).

11 Ministry of Defence, op. cit. (Preguntas frecuentes).

12 Declaration made by Chile on ratification of the Optional Protocol,

13 Ministry of Defence, op. cit. (Preguntas frecuentes).

14 Escuela Militar Bernardo O'Higgins, (Admisión).

15 El Diario Austral, "Denuncia malos tratos en Escuela Militar", 7 May 2002,

16 Observatorio Cono Sur Defensa y Fuerzas Armadas, Informe Chile No. 41, 3-10 May 2002, Programa de Investigación Fuerzas Armadas y Sociedad, Centro de Investigaciones Sociales, Universidad ARCIS, Chile, http://www.fhdss. chile041.htm.

17 Escuela de Suboficiales, (Preguntas frecuentes).


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