Country report and updates: Spain

Last revision: 23 Oct 2008
23 Oct 2008


  • Conscription is suspended. The right to conscientious objection is not recognised for professional soldiers.

Military recruitment


Conscription is allowed by Article 30 of the Spanish constitution from 1978, which reads:

1. Citizens have the right and the duty to defend Spain.

2. The law shall determine the military obligations of Spaniards ... with all due guarantees...1.

However, with Law 17/1999, the Armed Forces Personnel (Regulations) Act (Régimen del Personal de las Fuerzas Armadas)2, the Spanish government in fact suspended conscription, originally aimed at ending conscription in 2003, but later brought it forward to
20013. Since 2002 the armed forces consist of professional soldiers only4.

Still, conscription is only suspended. Article 4 paragraph 2 of Law 17/1999 allows for the
call-up of all forms of reservists if the needs of the national defence can not be met by professional soldiers only. The call-up of “compulsory reservists” (according to Article 178 possibly all Spanish citizens between 19-25 years), which basically would reintroduce conscription, requires the approval of congress. According to the law, this possibility is not limited to an emergency or war.

Professional soldiers

Law 37/2007 “about the military career” ('de la carrera militar')5
deals with the service of professional soldiers. Article 3 of the law provides for Spanish citizens and also for legally resident foreigners to join the Armed Forces, albeit under different conditions.

The Spanish Armed Forces maintain a joint recruitment website at, which also announces open positions for foreigners.

Conscientious objection

Conscientious objection for conscripts

The right to conscientious objection for conscripts is enshrined in Article 30 of the Spanish
constitution. Paragraph 2 of this article requires that military obligations are only introduced “with all due guarantees, conscientious objection as well as other grounds for exemption from
compulsory military service; it may also, when appropriate, impose a community service in place of military service

Only one year before the law to suspend conscription was passed, the Spanish government passed a new law on conscientious objection (Ley 22/1998, de 6 de julio, reguladora de la Objeción de Conciencia y de la Prestación Social Sustitutoria)7.
However, with the suspension of conscription, it seems that this law is no longer in force.

Article 180 of Law 17/1999 regulates the right to conscientious objection in the case of a call-up of compulsory reservists. According to this article, compulsory reservists can declare their conscientious objection to serving in the Armed Forces or other services in which they would need to bear arms. According to this article, “this declaration, made by the interested party, will not require any other approval8.

Declared conscientious objectors can then only be assigned to services of general interest in which they do not have to bear arms. According to article 183 of the same law, conscientious objectors then have the same status as volunteers in the organisation, and do not have any military status.

However, from the law it is unclear whether a declaration for conscientious objection can only be made before the incorporation of a compulsory reservist into the Armed Forces, or whether such a declaration is also possible during service.

Conscientious objection for professional soldiers

Law 17/1999 does not include any regulation for conscientious objection of any soldier other than compulsory reservists. This means that professional soldiers and voluntary reservists do not have the right to conscientious objection according to Spanish law.

Article 117 paragraph 2 of Law 39/2007 has a provision for soldiers in a professional career for
leaving the Armed Forces prematurely. According to this article, six months notice have to be given, and a compensation for training expenses has to be paid9.

Article 118 makes provisions for professional soldiers on a temporary contract. It allows for
premature resignation within the first three years of a contract under “extraordinary circumstances”10.

None of this constitutes a right to conscientious objection.

Draft evasion and desertion


According to Article 102 of the Military Penal Code, disobeying orders can be punished with
imprisonment from three months to two years.

If the disobedience persists and amounts to a non-fulfilment of military obligations, it can be
punished with imprisonment from two years and four months up to six years11.

Desertion is punishable from two years and four months up to six years of prison, and if committed during times of war with six to 15 years of imprisonment12.


No information is available on practice.


Constitution 1978,,
accessed 11 August 2008

17/1999 de Régimen del Personal de las Fuerzas Armadas,,
accessed 12 August 2008

DECRETO 247/2001, 9 de marzo, por el que se adelanta la suspensión
de la prestación del servicio militar,,
accessed 12 August 2008

Right to Conscientious Objection in Europe, Quaker Council for
European Affairs, 2005,,
accessed 12 August 2008

39/2007, de 19 de noviembre, de la carrera militar,,
accessed 13 August 2008

Constitution 1978,,
accessed 11 August 2008

22/1998, de 6 de julio, reguladora de la Objeción de Conciencia y
de la Prestación Social Sustitutoria,,
accessed 12 August 2008

180, Ley 17/1999 de Régimen del Personal de las Fuerzas Armadas,,
accessed 12 August 2008

39/2007, de 19 de noviembre, de la carrera militar,,
accessed 13 August 2008

39/2007, de 19 de noviembre, de la carrera militar,,
accessed 13 August 2008

Orgánica 13/1985, de 9 de diciembre, de Código Penal Militar,,
accessed 13 August 2008

Orgánica 13/1985, de 9 de diciembre, de Código Penal Militar,,
accessed 13 August 2008

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Spain

03 Dec 2015

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Alternativa Anitmilitarista Movimiento Objeción de Conciencia (AA.MOC or Anitmilitarist Alternative Conscientious Objection Movement) are a Spanish movement which arose out of the Spanish experience of conscription and resistance in the form of Insumisión, loosely translateable as insubordination or disobedience.  Members have written about the transition to the post-conscription era in Spain, and the challenges faced by antimilitarists in this transition.

'The past can't be accessed by merely remembering: it must be constructed, and this is a collective task.  Our interpretations of the events through which we live will construct their history.'

Ana M. Fernández 

For Alternativa Antimilitarista.MOC (AA.MOC), writing about the terrain which opened up before us after conscription means analysing the Spanish Insumisión campaign – the campaign of civil disobedience and total objection to military service – and stirring up many diverse experiences, emotions, sorrows and joys.

23 Jun 2015

Antimilitarists in Spain have spoken out in solidarity with young Ukrainian's studying in the country, who have been recalled to fight by the Ukrainian government. Alternativa Antimilitarista.MOC Madrid has called on the Spanish government to protect six young Ukrainian on a study trip in Spain, after two young people recieved letters from the Ukrainian government in February, calling them up to military service. The students currently have to return to Ukraine every year to renew their permit. The organising group - Asociación de Asistencia a la Infancia de Aragón – has been organising such trips since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and is looking for ways to extend the young people's stay in Spain for several years.

09 Mar 2014

20 February was the 25th anniversary of the first  presentation of insumisos to compulsory military service in the state of Spain. Thousands followed, in squares, courts, and even in prison. Niether civilian or military courts, disqualifications or prison could stop insumisión. In fact, by assuming the consequences of their desobedience,  turn on a loudspeaker for their demands. WRI supported the movement since the first declarations of insumisión, and continues to work closely with Alternativa Antimilitarista MOC. We celebrate 25 years of disobedience!

30 May 2013

Carlos Pérez Barranco

In December 2001, the last recruits abandoned military barracks across Spain after having completed the final nine months of obligatory military service. In many European states, the end of forced recruitment had been motivated almost exclusively by the military forces' evolution towards global intervention operations, whilst in Spain the system of forced recruitment had collapsed despite years of government efforts.

09 Apr 2010

On 1 April the Spanish Guardia Civil arrested total objector Óscar Cervera García, an old total objector of the Spanish Movement for Conscientious Objection (MOC). Óscar Cervera García was one of the last five imprisoned total objectors during the campaign "insumision in the barracks" in the late 1990. He was sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment, and was included in WRI's Prisoners for Peace Honour Roll 2001.

15 Jan 2009

In this presentation I will give an overview of the right to conscientious objection, its
legal practices and frameworks in the 27 European Union member states. Before I do so, I want to step back a bit and have a brief look at the existing international standards about the right to
conscientious objection, as these standards allow us to put the practices in the EU member states into a perspective.

14 Jun 2008

Obligatory military service in Spain has been suspended since 2001. It appears however that this could be reinstated at any time, if considered necessary, even without the formal declaration of a state of emergency. In such an event, there is some uncertainty as to how the constitutional guarantee of the right of conscientious objection would be implemented.

There is also no indication of any provisions allowing the release of serving members of the armed forces who develop a conscientious objection.

01 Apr 2008

The Ibero-American Convention on Young People's Rights, which entered into force on 1 March 2008, explicitly recognises the right to conscientious objection. Article 12 of the Convention reads: "Young people have the right to form a conscientious objection against compulsory military service." It also includes a commitment of states to create legal instruments to safeguard this right, and to progressively end compulsory military service.

01 Dec 2000

The following is an email message soliciting international support two Spanish insumisos. We reproduce it here as an illustration of the role that technology (and a very small commitment of time) can play in support to military resisters and prisoners. Postscript: on 21 November 2000, José and Alberto began their imprisonment in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid (see PfP list for address).