Population: 7.7 million (1.4 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 51,000
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18 (conscription phased out)
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 12 February 2002
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.
National recruitment legislation and practice
Conscription was provided for in the 1991 constitution, which stated that "To defend the country shall be a duty and a matter of honour of every Bulgarian citizen" (Article 59), and in the Law on Defence and Armed Forces of the Republic of Bulgaria (Article 2).
In December 2006 Bulgaria informed the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that "Persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Republic of Bulgaria, who are under 18 years of age, cannot be recruited to serve in the army. According to article 97, paragraph 1, of the Defence and Armed Forces Act of the Republic of Bulgaria, the minimum conscription age is 18, and the maximum conscription age is 27.... Bulgarian legislation also provides for the possibility of alternative service (article 84, paragraph 1, of the Defence and Armed Forces Act) ... [T]here are no cases of participation in armed conflicts of persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Republic of Bulgaria who are under 18 years of age."1 Military service lasted nine months, or six months for graduates.2
The minimum age for voluntary recruitment was also 18.3
Military training and military schools
Applicants to military colleges had to have a high school diploma, but there were no specific age requirements. Secondary-school graduates under the age of 18 could enter military schools until they were old enough to perform military service.6 In its declaration on ratifying the Optional Protocol in February 2002 Bulgaria stated that "Persons who have not come of age shall be trained at military schools subject to the conclusion of a training agreement to be signed by them with the consent of their parents or guardians. Having come of age, the trainees shall sign a training agreement on a regular military duty."
In October 2007 the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that the government explicitly criminalize the recruitment and involvement of children in hostilities in domestic legislation and ensure extraterritorial jurisdiction for these crimes when they are committed by or against a person who is a citizen of or has other links with Bulgaria.7
At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Bulgaria 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 Initial report of Bulgaria to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on implementation of the Optional Protocol, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/BGR/1, 23 January 2007.
2 Communication from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 May 2004.
3 Initial report of Bulgaria to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/8/Add.29, 12 October 1995.
4 "Bulgaria scraps the draft", New York Times, 30 June 2006.
6 Communication from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, above note 2.
7 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Bulgaria, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/BGR/CO/1, 5 October 2007.