Honduras: Resistance against reform of military service

Students demonstrate against obligatory military serviceStudents demonstrate against obligatory military serviceAfter the military coup in Honduras in June 2009, resistance is growing in the country to what is seen as a reintroduction of conscription, which had been abolished by a constitutional amendment in 1994. Already in July 2009, human rights activists accused the Honduran military to forcefully recruit for the Armed Forces.

In August, a new draft law on military was to be discussed in the National Congress of Honduras. This law was supposed to finally bring Honduras' law on military service in line with the constitutional amendment of 1994, which made military service voluntary in times of peace. However, critics of the factual government of Roberto Micheletti, who ousted the elected president José Manuel Zelaya in a coup in July, fear that the law in fact means a reintroduction of conscription.

El Heraldo reported on 18 August 2009 that the National Congress suspended the discussion of the draft law and handed copies of the proposed laws to delegates of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Although article 1 of the proposed law states that military service is voluntary in times of peace, article 2 states that all Hondurans - male and female - are subject to military service between the age of 18 and 30. And according to article 6, a call-up is possible "when the circumstances require this".

And while article 16 states that joining military service is voluntary, it also states that in case of call-up it will be published in the official gazette to whom the law applies.
Article 40 of the law specifies under which conditions a call-up for military service is possible, including when the strength of the Armed Forces is below 70% of its target, or a public calamity or emergency which requires the use of all resources. In such a situation, the president has to authorises the call-up for military service.

Because of this, opposition activists and supporters of ousted president Zelaya fear a reintroduction of conscription. Several opposition movements, for example the women's peace organisation "Visitación Padilla", issued statements against obligatory military service. Also students mobilised against military service in a demonstration through the centre of Tegucigalpa.

Sources: War Resisters' International: Country report and updates: Honduras, 1998; Latin American Herald Tribune: Honduran Army Accused of Forced Recruitment in Coup’s Wake, 2 July 2009; El Heraldo: Dan copias a la CIDH de Ley de Servicio Militar, 18 August 2009; Propuesta Ley de Servicio Militar, http://tinyurl.com/nvzzp8; Visitación Padilla: Honduras - No al servicio militar obligatorio, 13 August 2009; Kaosenlared: Honduras: Estudiantes marchan contra el servicio militar obligatorio, 1 September 2009