Country report and updates: Paraguay

Last revision: 13 May 1998
13 May 1998
13/05/1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Law 569/75 regulates military service, which is compulsory according to art. 129 of the 20 June 1992 Paraguayan constitution. [2] [6]

military service

All men aged 18 to 50 are liable for military service. They must take an oath of obedience to the armed forces and the national police. [6]

Military service lasts for one year, and two years in the navy. [6]

High school students are allowed to perform their service in two five week stages. [1] [6]

Military service is performed in either the armed forces (army, navy and air force) or the national police force. [6]

After performing their service conscripts are in the reserve until they are 50. It is not known whether this involves reservist training. [6]

In wartime women must assist the armed forces. [6]

postponement and exemption

Conscripts allowed postponement receive a deferment document, but it is not known on what grounds postponement is granted. [6]

Conscripts may get exempted for physical or psychological reasons. [1]

Conscripts who belong to indigenous groups (2 percent of the population) are constitutionally exempt. [6]

It is known that in order to avoid military service conscripts buy themselves out of military service. This is much used by (mainly rich) young men and usually involves negotiations over the price with the military. Others feign illness in order to be declared unfit to serve. [1]

recruitment

The Recruitment and Mobilisation Service (DISERMOV) is in charge of recruitment. Every year they must recruit 17,000 new soldiers. Twice a year (in February and August) a call-up to appear at the recruitment offices is publicly announced in the press and on billboards. This call-up applies to all young men who have reached the age of 17 and to older men who have not yet presented themselves. Since many do not appear voluntarily and as the authorities have no general system for pinpointing citizens, the military raid streets and homes seizing young men who cannot prove they have performed their service and automatically recruiting them, without informing their relatives. [1] [6]

Only 20 percent of those called up actually perform military service. The majority of conscripts are rural people who have to serve for one year. [1] [6]

In practice the average recruitment age is 16 and a half. Boys as young as 14 get recruited, even though it is illegal to recruit anyone of under 18. [1] [6]

forced recruitment

Forced recruitment clearly happens in Paraguay, moreover is even an officially accepted recruitment method. In 1993 the Minister of National Defence defended the right of the armed forces to seize people in the street who had not performed their military service. DISERMOV considers it is entitled to employ forced recruitment under art. 34 Law 569/75 according to which the police and military may at any time ask any citizen aged 17 to 50 to produce enlistment or deferment documents, thus compelling them to keep the law. [6]

There are numerous cases of the illegal forced recruitment of under-age children, yet no official has ever been prosecuted for breaking art. 56 of Law 569/75 which forbids the recruitment of children under the age of 18. [6]

2 Conscientious objection

legal right

Articles 37 and 129 of the 1992 constitution recognize the right of conscientious objection. According to art. 37: "conscientious objection for ethical and religious reasons is recognized (...)." Para. 5 of art. 129 states: "Those who declare their conscientious objection are to perform service beneficial to the civilian population in aid centres designated by law and operated under civilian jurisdiction. The laws implementing the right to conscientious objection shall neither be punitive nor impose burdens heavier than those imposed by military service." [2] [3]

There is no law on the actual implementation of conscientious objection or substitute service in Paraguay and COs' constitutional guarantees remain unenforced. [2]

procedure and practice

All conscript may announce they are COs, but as the constitutional right to conscientious objection is not backed by any law implementing this right, there is no official procedure for achieving CO status. [1]

In 1991 a youth organisations' umbrella group called CONOSMO was formed to demand that the right to conscientious objection be included in the new constitution. SERPAJ Paraguay, the initiator of the group, drafted a document which was approved by the plenary session of the National Constitution Convention. After this CONOSMO encouraged young men to become COs. In September 1993 the first five COs announced themselves publicly. In August 1994, after a third group had announced they were COs, the CO-movement MOC Paraguay was formed.

substitute service

No substitute service is available. The constitution merely states that COs are to perform service in socially beneficial centres and under civilian jurisdiction. No further details are known. [1]

3 Draft evasion and desertion

penalties

Not obeying call-up is punishable under the Military Penal Code and under Law 569/75. In peacetime offenders may have to serve for six months longer than the normal period. They may not receive any professional qualification or vote until this period of extra service has been completed (art. 64 Law 569/75). [6]

Deserters in peacetime get disciplinary punishment and must complete their service. In wartime they may be executed. [1]

practice

It is not clear whether deserters are being deliberately sought. Many are obliged to stay in hiding and have a precarious existence. [1] [5]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 20,200 strong, including 12,900 conscripts. They form 0.39 percent of the population. A paramilitary 14,800 strong special police force includes about 4,000 conscripts. [7]

In 1992 there were 79,000 17 and 18-year-old men in Paraguay and in that year 17,000 conscripts performed military service in the armed forces or national police. [6]

This means only 20 percent of conscripts actually perform military service. [1] [5] [6]

In 1993 the first five conscripts announced they were COs. This number rapidly increased to 80 in 1994; 1,457 in 1995 and well over 6,000 in 1997 - that is, 15 percent of called up conscripts. [4]

Sources

[1] ROLC 1994. Informe del taller de formacion para la objecion de consciencia i encuentro latinoamericano de objecion de consciencia. SERPAJ, Asuncion, Paraguay. [2] Toney, R.J. 1996. Military Service, Alternative Social Service, and Conscientious Objection in the Americas: A Brief Survey of Selected Countries. NISBCO, Washington DC, USA. [3] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1994. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/84 (and Addendum). United Nations, Geneva. [4] SERPAJ Paraguay, 1995, 1996. Information from SERPAJ, Asuncion, Paraguay. [5] Wandelaer, J. de 1994. 'L'objection de conscience au Paraguay' in: Le journal des objecteurs, no. 129, avril 1994. MOC, Paris. [6] SERPAJ Paraguay 1996. Child-soldiers of Paraguay: inquiry on under-aged soldiers. SERPAJ, Asuncion, Paraguay. [7] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Paraguay

18 Nov 2015

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Rafael Uzcategui is a Venezuelan conscientious objector, author, and human rights activist who has been active with War Resisters' International, and in antimilitarism more generally, for many years. Here, he summarises the main tendencies of the Latin American conscientious objection movement, and details how his own nonviolent anarchist position fits into this picture.

During the eighties, many Latin American countries were living under military dictatorships or suffering the consequences of civil war. These were also the days of the Cold War, during which the US considered Latin America one of its 'zones of influence': almost like a back garden. The traumatic and progressive democratisation process meant that broad swathes of the continent's youth developed an antimilitarist sentiment, which began to take on an organised and political dimension. As an adolescent at the beginning of the nineties in Barquisimeto, a town 5 hours away from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, my peers and I had to hide ourselves twice a year for fifteen days, to avoid compulsory military service. Otherwise they would seize us on the streets and, without wasting words, force us into a truck, with others just as terrified, and from there take us to the barracks. For many of us, these forced recruitment raids or 'press gangs' were the starting point for our rejection of authority and of the military uniform.

28 Jun 2012

In June, just before the events at Curuguaty that triggered the impeachment of President Lugo - a parliamentary coup - the Paraguayan house of representatives approved a draft law on professional soldiers with some amendments. It now still has to be approved by the Senate, but there is little doubt that the law will pass there without problems.

26 Jan 2012

Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, on his mission to Paraguay (23 - 30 March 2011)

(...)

F. Right to conscientious objection