Population: 6.2 million (2.7 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 10,100
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 17
Voluntary Recruitment Age: no legal minimum age (see text)
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 27 September 2002
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC

Following continued public and international pressure about recruitment of children, by 2007 under-18s were no longer allowed to volunteer for military or pre-military service.


National recruitment legislation and practice

The armed forces were mainly conscripted.1 Military law required the recruitment of all males the year they turned 18, thus allowing the conscription of 17-year-olds.2 Conscientious objectors, disabled people, people belonging to indigenous communities and Catholic priests were not required to do military service.3 In times of armed conflict all citizens could be conscripted; special forces could also be mobilized for specific missions.4 Women could be conscripted, but only in support functions.5

Conditions of service for conscripts were extremely poor, with very strict disciplinary regimes. Between 1989 and 2005 more than 110 conscripts aged between 12 and 20 had died during compulsory military service, mostly as a result of ill-treatment or firearms accidents.6 A former conscript who had spent his military service at the Mariscal Estigarribia military base in Chaco was found in the jungle in 2006, suffering from severe malnutrition and psychological problems because of the service conditions.7

In November 2006 the UN Special Rapporteur on torture expressed concern about the beating and descuereo of conscripts, a form of systematic bullying which involved forcing individuals to carry out extreme forms of exercise as punishment. He also expressed concern that there had been no convictions for torture after the new penal code entered into force in 1999, and that torture was not criminalized in the military criminal code.8

Numerous cases of soldiers, including under-18s, who had died in service over the years were under investigation before the national courts, but no progress had been made in the investigations. By October 2007 the government, working with the armed forces, the police and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), had reportedly identified over 250 such cases.9

Military training and military schools

Each branch of the armed forces had its own training and specialist schools.10 Military schools, which were entirely under military control, accepted children as young as 12. Little information was available as to the education provided, the disciplinary regime or the punishments that students might be subjected to.11

There were several such schools, including the Mariscal Solano López Military Academy for officer training and the Mariscal Estigarribia military school for the instruction of non-commissioned officers (NCOs).12 Six new NCO schools had been opened throughout the country by 2005.13

Until 2006 secondary-school students wishing to bring forward their military service could attend four-week courses once a year for three years at the Students' Military Instruction Centre for Reserve Officers (Centro de Instrucción Militar para Estudiantes de Formación de Oficiales de Reserva, CIMEFOR). The first two periods were compulsory and the third year was optional. Cimeforistas, as cadets were known, received instruction in the use of firearms and physical and academic instruction.14

On 24 June 2005, 18-year-old Darío González, a third-year student at the NCO Military College in Encarnación, died of a gunshot wound to the head, the third such case at the institution. In July René González, also aged 18, a student at the NCO Military School in Dimabel, attempted suicide. No investigation had been carried out in either case.15

Child recruitment and deployment

The law allowed under-18s to bring forward their enlistment, but no minimum conditions were set. Only a children's court could grant an under-18 permission to bring forward his military service. Administrative sanctions were provided for those recruiting under-18s without this authorization, but were not enforced. Recruits under 18 were automatically deemed to have reached the age of majority once they joined the armed forces, and were then bound by military law and discipline.16

Forced recruitment of children between 12 and 17 was very common. Military trucks travelled to communities and children were taken away following false promises of education, food and health care.17 Parents were often pressurized or coerced into signing authorizations allowing their children to be conscripted, although these authorizations had no legal standing.18 The lack of registration at birth facilitated this practice: around 22 per cent of all under-18s in Paraguay were not registered at birth and so had no legal papers.19

In all, around 60 per cent of recruits in military units were reportedly under 18. In 2005 three young indigenous recruits were found at the Engineering Command in Asunción, and four others at Cavalry Regiment No. 4, in Salto del Guiará, even though by law members of indigenous communities were exempt from conscription.20 The Inter-institutional Commission for Visiting Military Quarters (Comisión Interinstitucional de Visita a Cuarteles), established in 2001,21 visited 40 military units in March 2005 and found 168 under-18 conscripts, most of whom had been forcibly recruited. Some conscripts were used as forced labour in unpaid jobs for the benefit of their superior officers.22

Regulations were modified in 2005 to allow only those who were 18 or older to join active service, but for a year or more military authorities continued to recruit children as Cimeforistas, using a Supreme Court decree that allowed such recruitment with parental consent.23

In April 2006 the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the persistence of recruitment of children, especially in rural areas, and called for it to be abolished and for all complaints of ill-treatment and deaths of conscripts to be investigated and compensation awarded to the victims.24

In March 2006 Paraguay replaced its original declaration on ratifying the Optional Protocol, which had stated that 16 was the minimum age for voluntary recruitment,25 with a declaration stating that the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces was 18.26 Legislation to give effect to this change was pending before Congress in mid-2007.27

In June 2006 government authorities publicly recognized their responsibility in, and apologized for, the deaths of Gerardo Vargas Areco and Víctor Hugo Maciel Alcaráz, two recruits under 18, who died during military service in 1989 and 1995 respectively. The apology followed complaints presented by NGOs before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.28

In January 2007 the commander of the armed forces dismissed from the armed forces all cadets under 18 following an outcry by NGOs when 16-year-old Víctor José Coronel, a Cimeforista at the Luque Air Force unit, was hospitalized following severe physical and psychological abuse, reportedly at the hands of his superiors.29 Also in January 2007 the appeals court issued a ruling that under-18s could not be recruited to CIMEFOR.30

In October 2007 a case of human rights violations against two conscripts who were 14 at the time of their recruitment in 1997 was still pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.31


Neighbourhood security commissions

Neighbourhood security commissions (comisiones vecinales de seguridad ciudadana) were set up in some of the poorest parts of the country, with the support of the Ministry of the Interior and in direct communication with the police, as part of the 2005 government-initiated Safe Paraguay Plan. The commissions had over 13,000 members, equipped with mobile phones and weapons, in three departments – Caaguazú, Canindeyú and San Pedro.32 According to reports, these commissions were increasingly involved in illegal detentions, death threats, house raids, killings and attempted killings, and torture and ill-treatment.33 They also offered protection to drugs traffickers and cigarette smugglers. In July 2006 peasant leader Luis Martínez, from the Kamba community in Rembé, San Pedro Department, and a member of a peasant association critical of the commissions, died after being shot over 40 times, reportedly by members of a neighbourhood security commission.34 Several families from Rembé left their homes after receiving death threats. Investigations into the killing were stalled and by December 2006 an alleged perpetrator had not been arrested.35

1 Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), Programa Seguridad y Ciudadanía, Reporte del Sector Seguridad en América Latina y el Caribe, Informe Nacional: Paraguay, August 2006, www.flacso.cl.

2 Orlando Castillo, "Las Fuerzas Armadas", Derechos Humanos en Paraguay 2005, Codehupy, December 2005, http://www.codehupy.org.

3 CODEHUPY, Informe alternativo de CODEHUPY al Segundo Informe Periódico del Estado de Paraguay (ICCPR), 2005, at www.omct.org.

4 Ley Nº 216, de Organización General de la Fuerzas Armadas de la Nación, 9 July 1993, www.senado.gov.py.

5 CODEHUPY, above note 3.

6 Ibid.

7 Vidal Acevedo, Orlando Castillo and Ricardo Yamil Derene, "Una de cal y otra de arena: un reconocimiento importante a los derechos humanos, pero también significativo aumento presupuestario a militares", Derechos Humanos en Paraguay 2006, CODEHUPY, December 2006.

8 UN Press Release, "Special Rapporteur on Torture ends mission to Paraguay", 29 November 2006, www.ohchr.org.

9 Information from confidential source, November 2007.

10 FLACSO, above note 1.

11 Castillo, above note 2.

12 Ejército Paraguayo, ORBAT, www.saorbats.com.ar.

13 Plan Nacional de Seguridad Pública "Paraguay Seguro", www.stp.gov.py.

14 Cimefor Ejército, www.defensanacional.cc/images/Cimefor01.doc.

15 Maria Noguera and Andrés Vázquez, "Continúan prácticas de malos tratos, tortura y reclutamiento forzado", Derechos Humanos en Paraguay 2005, CODEHUPY, December 2005.

16 CODEHUPY, above note 3.

17 Asociación de Familiares de Víctimas del Servicio Militar Obligatorio (AFAVISEM), "Niños y Adolescentes en Cuarteles: Una realidad en Paraguay", 10 January 2006, www.vivaparaguay.com.

18 CODEHUPY, above note 3.

19 UNICEF Paraguay, Situación de la infancia en Paraguay, undated, www.unicef.org/paraguay/spanish/children_2699.htm.

20 Noguera and Vázquez, above note 15.

21 See Child Soldiers: Global Report 2004.

22 CODEHUPY, above note 3.

23 Information from Amnesty International (AI) Paraguay, June 2007.

24 UN Human Rights Committee, Consideration of second periodic report submitted by Paraguay, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CCPR/C/PRY/CO/2, 24 April 2006.

25 See Child Soldiers, above note 21.

26 Amended declaration, www2.ohchr.org. See also Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), "Paraguay pide perdón público por el reclutamiento ilegal y muerte de dos niños mientras realizaban el servicio militar obligatorio", 20 June 2006, www.cejil.org.

27 Government communication to Coalition, July 2007.

28 Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Acuerdo de Solucion Amistosa, Caso Nº 11607, Victor Hugo Maciel v. Paraguay, in Gaceta Oficial de la Republica del Paraguay, 19 May 2006, www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/vargas/Escrito2.pdf; Caso Vargas Areco v. Paraguay, Sentencia, 26 September 2006, www.corteidh.or.cr. See also Acevedo, Castillo and Yamil Derene, above note 7.

29 "Juez rechazó reincorporación de los menores al Cimefor", La Nación, 19 January 2007, www.lanacion.com.py; "Otra víctima más del servicio militar", Movimiento de Objeción de Conciencia, Paraguay, 9 January 2007, http://moc-py.cabichui.org.

30 Corte Suprema de Justicia, "Cámara rechazó apelación promovida por padres de menores", 30 January 2007, www.pj.gov.py.

31 Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Informe Nº 82/03, Petición 12.330, Admisibilidad – Marcelino Gómes Paredes y Cristián Ariel Núñez, 22 October 2003, www.cidh.oas.org.

32 Acevedo, Castillo and Yamil Derene, above note 7.

33 Juan Martens and Roque Orrego, "De la constancia de las violaciones a la legalidad penal, a la ilegalidad paraestatal de la mano de comisiones vecinales de 'seguridad ciudadana'", Derechos Humanos en Paraguay 2006, CODEHUPY, December 2006.

34 Acevedo, Castillo and Yamil Derene, above note 7.

35 Martens and Orrego, above note 33.


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