Population: 3.4 million (745,000 under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 12,000
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 19
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 20 February 2003
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces. Under-18s who joined a state-supported paramilitary organization could be involved in training which included military activities.


Lithuania joined NATO in 2004.


National recruitment legislation and practice

Service in the armed forces, or in alternative unarmed units, was the constitutional duty of all male citizens aged 18 years and over.1 Lithuania's declaration on ratification of the Optional Protocol in 2003 stated that the minimum ages for voluntary and compulsory service in the armed forces were 18 and 19 respectively.2

The Law on National Conscription regulated military call-up. Military service had three stages: registration, conscription and post-conscription in the reserves. At 16, all male citizens had to register for the draft at their nearest municipal military office. They could be conscripted into compulsory military service for a one-year period between the ages of 19 and 26 (Article 17). At 19, they were obliged to appear in person at the office within a 45-day period starting 30 days before their 19th birthday.3 Those selected for conscription were put on the records of the Conscription Administration Service of the Ministry of National Defence. It was the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior to provide municipal military offices with updated information on potential conscripts.

Volunteers could start their military service earlier, at the age of 18, by written request to a Selective Recruitment Commission or regional military conscription centre.

A Commission for the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law, established in 2001, had the task of supervising the Ministry of National Defence in meeting its international humanitarian law obligations.4

In May 2003 a new Article 105 was introduced into the Criminal Code giving effect to Lithuania's obligations under Article 4 of the Optional Protocol. The recruitment of under-18s into armed groups and their use in hostilities was made punishable by up to 12 years' imprisonment. Also newly criminalized and made punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment was "forced use of civilians and prisoners of war in the armed forces of an enemy" in times of international armed conflict, occupation or annexation. This prohibited the use of civilians as "human shields", and the recruitment or use of children in armed groups or hostilities. This amendment to the Criminal Code had retroactive effect and was not bound by the statute of limitations.5 Criminal liability for conscripting or enlisting children was subject to universal jurisdiction.6

Military training and military schools

The General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy in Vilnius offered in-service officer training under the Ministry of National Defence, and five civilian degree courses, for students aged 18 years and over. In 2006, 8.5 per cent of students were women.7 International humanitarian law was a compulsory part of the officers' course.

The Riflemen's Union, a voluntary state-supported paramilitary organization, provided volunteers under 18 with training in shooting, military history and fitness, for two hours weekly and at summer camp.8 The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern that this might involve the engagement of children as young as 12 in military activities.9


The government reported that 80 per cent of children in refugee reception centres came from areas affected by armed conflict, and that programs and services were provided for them.10 The Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Lithuania to further strengthen its work on this in particular with regard to early identification of those who had been recruited or used in hostilities and providing specialist psychological and other assistance.11

At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Lithuania and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.

1 Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, Article 139(2).

2 Declaration on accession to the Optional Protocol, www2.ohchr.org.

3 Law on National Conscription, No. 106-2472 of 1996.

4 Initial report of Lithuania to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on implementation of the Optional Protocol, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/LTU/1, 29 June 2006.

5 Ibid., referring in particular to revision of 1 May 2003 to the Criminal Code, Article 105.

6 Additional information from the Government of Lithuania to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in connection with consideration of initial report on implementation of the Optional Protocol, 22 August 2007.

7 Initial report, above note 4.

8 Riflemen's Union, www.sauliusajunga.lt.

9 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Lithuania on implementation of the Optional Protocol, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/LTU/CO/1, 5 October 2007 (unedited version).

10 Additional information, above note 6.

11 Committee on the Rights of the Child, above note 9.


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