Population: 2.3 million (448,000 under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 5,300
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 19 (conscription ceased by end 2006)
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 19 December 2005
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC
Conscription was ended during the reporting period. There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces.
Latvia joined NATO in 2004.
National recruitment legislation and practice
Measures were taken towards creating a non-conscript army. The final compulsory call-up took place on 24 November 2005 and the last soldiers completed compulsory military service on 24 November 2006. As of December 2006, more than 5,000 soldiers were serving on contracts, 170 of them former conscripts who had transferred to service on a contractual basis at the end of their conscription. Seventeen per cent of those serving on a contractual basis were women. On 1 January 2007 military conscription ceased and the army became an entirely non-conscript force.1 Defence service employment contracts were open to 18-year-olds.
Military training and military schools
In 2007 the Ministry of Defence said that one of its priorities was to maintain enrolment numbers in the non-conscript armed forces, partly through supporting the Youth Guard and by fostering "the patriotic education of youth and the acquisition of military skills."2
The Youth Guard was a voluntary special-interest organization set up and led by the Ministry of Defence. Apart from instilling physical fitness and patriotism, its purpose was to excite young people's interest in military service, and to cultivate motivated personnel for the all-volunteer military service. It had 6,500 members in early 2004.3 Membership was open to citizens with a good command of the Latvian language, and training was arranged for two age groups. Juniors, aged 12-15, learned the basics of military training and about the history, structure and functions of the armed forces. Their program included militarized competitions and hiking. A senior group, aged 16-18, underwent a basic course in national defence, similar to the one followed by privates in the army. This included lessons in weaponry and shooting doctrine, drill, tactics, first aid and topography, and training in national security policy and integration in NATO. The course was designed to last three years and awarded an academic diploma that would ensure fast-track entry into the military professions.
The Ministry of Defence also ran Youth Guard courses as a voluntary option in the civilian schools' curriculum, for those eligible to take it and with the agreement of specific institutions. Specially trained instructors were provided by the Ministry.
In December 2005 Latvia ratified the Optional Protocol, its declaration stating that at that time citizens aged 19 were liable to mandatory military service and that young people could enlist voluntarily for military service from the age of 18.4
In June 2006 Latvia ratified the ILO Minimum Age Convention 138 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention 182.
2 Ministry of Defence Policy Paper, Priority No 9.
3 Ministry of Defence, Youth Guard (Jaunsardze).
4 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.