Country report and updates: Paraguay
Updated: June 2021
Law 569/75 regulates military service, which is compulsory according to art. 129 of the 20 June 1992 Paraguayan constitution.
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.
As of 2020, the age for service is between 18 and 25[i] (or 24[ii]) years of age.
Military service lasts for one year, and two years in the navy.
High school students are allowed to perform their service in two five-week stages.
Military service is performed in either the armed forces (army, navy and air force) or the national police force.
After performing their service conscripts are in the reserve until they are 50. It is not known whether this involves reservist training.
In wartime women must assist the armed forces.
postponement and exemption
Conscripts allowed postponement receive a deferment document, but it is not known on what grounds postponement is granted.
Conscripts may get exempted for physical or psychological reasons.
Conscripts who belong to indigenous groups (2% of the population) are constitutionally exempt.  However, in 2018 there was a reported case of recruitment of indigenous youngsters.[iii]
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.
In 2018 it was announced that those between 26 and 50 years of age who have not performed military service would have to pay a military fee of two (2) minimum daily wages per year for eight (8) years. With the minimum daily wage at ₲ 81,252 that amount would rise to ₲ 1,300,000.[iv]
The Recruitment and Mobilisation Service (DISERMOV) is in charge of recruitment. 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.
The majority of conscripts are rural people who have to serve for one year.
There is a special regime about young students of 18 who can have 3 periods of instruction of one month each at CIMEFOR (Student Military Instruction Centre for Reserve Officers Training). Only the first month is obligatory and the other two are optional.[v]
recruitment of minors
In the 1990s it was reported that in practice the average recruitment age was 16 and a half. Boys as young as 14 were getting recruited, even though it was illegal to recruit anyone of under 18.
In 2006, the Human Rights Committee regretted that the State party had not provided detailed information on steps taken to abolish the recruitment of children for military service and was concerned about the persistence of this practice, especially in rural areas. Child soldiers were said to be used as forced labour, and cases of ill-treatment and death had been reported (articles 6, 8 and 24 of the Covenant). The Committee recommended that: “The State party should abolish the recruitment of children for military service, investigate cases of ill-treatment and death of conscripts and compensate the victims”.[vi]
Nevertheless, by the end of the 2010s the recruitment of minors continues, including through CIMEFOR. In 2019, after it was published that the son of the President of Paraguay was recruited at the age of 17 by permission of his father, lawyers and human rights defenders presented a complaint before the Court for Children and Adolescents, pointing out that the law does not permit to perform the Obligatory Military Service as a minor not even with authorization of the parents.[vii] Responding to a question by the Public Defence, the President informed that among the enlisted for the Obligatory Military Service during that period there were not minors, but that in the Institutes of Military Training there were 1,000 citizens, and among them 142 minors: 119 at the Military Highschool Acosta Ñu and 23 at CIMEFOR.[viii] One of the lawyers who submitted the complaint pointed out that the law about CIMEFOR states clearly that minors under the age of 18 shall not be admitted, and that the first period of the first year counts as military service and therefore that it is a form of the Obligatory Military Service.[ix] However, a Judge of the Court for Children and Adolescents found no breach of the law as for minors entering CIMEFOR.[x]
Following this decision, another complaint was submitted by representatives of various groups before the Public Prosecutor's Office for Children and Adolescents citing new facts. One of them was a statement by the Minister of Defence that there were 400 adolescents in various areas of the Armed Forces (apart from the 23 in CIMEFOR). Another fact is the photos shared by the President on social media showing people in CIMEFOR practising in shooting, which contradicts official statements that CIMEFOR is an educational centre where no military training is taking place.[xi]
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.
There are numerous cases of the illegal forced recruitment of underage 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.
In 2012, the law 4733[xii] established the possibility to recruit professional soldiers. The period of service is of 1 year and may be extended by mutual agreement for up to 3 years. Eligible are citizens of Paraguay between 19 and 22 years of age, who have completed school education up to the 6th grade, as well as the compulsory military service with good conduct, with no police or judicial record, with proven health and physical fitness for the service, and with any affiliation to a political party of movement suspended.
The salary is set as follows:
- Corporal 2 (first year of contract), 60% of the minimum wage.
- Corporal 1 (second year of contract), 75% of the minimum wage.
- Sergeant 2 (third year of contract), 90% of the minimum wage.
In times of peace, professional soldiers cannot be more than 60% of the personnel in the Category of Troop.
2. Conscientious objection
legal right and legislation
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."
In 2006, the Human Rights Committee welcomed the recognition in Paraguay’s Constitution of conscientious objection to military service and the provisional measures passed by the Chamber of Deputies to guarantee respect for conscientious objection given the lack of specific regulations governing this right. However, it regretted that access to information on conscientious objection appeared to be unavailable in rural areas (article 18 of the Covenant). The Committee recommended that: “the State party should pass specific regulations on conscientious objection so as to ensure that this right can be effectively exercised, and guarantee that information about its exercise is properly disseminated to the entire population”.[xiii]
The law regulating the right to conscientious objection is law 4013/2010.
Legislation about conscientious objection and alternative civilian service was approved in 2010 but in practice, the alternative civilian service started in 2019.
Decree 6363/2011 simply established the National Council of Conscientious Objection to Military Service as the authority which implements the law and administers conscientious objection and the alternative civilian service. Resolution 01/2018 of the National Council of Conscientious Objection to Military Service establishes the Rules of Procedures of this entity.
procedure and practice
All conscript may announce they are COs.
According to law 4013/2010, the declaration of conscientious objection should be in writing and submitted to the Ombudsman (or the national consular representatives for those being abroad) within 20 days from the date someone has to be enlisted. (Article 4). Such declaration suspends enlistment (Art. 3 of Law 4013/2010).
The declaration should contain the personal data of the applicant, the ethical or religious reasons of conscientious objection, the place someone would prefer to perform the alternative civilian service and a validated signature. (Art. 5 of Law 4013/2010)
The declaration is considered by the National Council of Conscientious Objection which should decide within 10 days whether it conforms with what it is stipulated in the Constitution and the relevant legislation.
Such decisions of the National Council of Conscientious Objection may be appealed to the administrative justice (Tribunal de Cuentas). (Art. 8 of Law 4013/2010)
The National Council of Conscientious Objection is consisted of (Art. 7 of Law 4013/2010):
a) The Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) as its president.
b) The President of the Permanent Commission of Human Rights of the Senate or a member of it designated by it.
c) The President of the Permanent Commission of Human Rights of the Chamber of Deputies or a member of it designated by it.
d) A representative of the Ministry of National Defence designated by the Minister.
e) A representative of the conscientious objectors selected by ballot among the conscientious objectors the last 5 years before the law 4013/2010 was enacted.
The members of the National Council of Conscientious Objection remain in it for the rest of their terms in their relevant entities and the representative of COs for 5 years, coinciding with the parliamentary period. (Art. 3 of the Rules of Procedures)
There can be ordinary and extraordinary sessions. Ordinary sessions take place the first and third week of each month. (Art. 8 of the Rules of Procedures)
The minimum legal quorum for the sessions is 3 out of the 5 members. (Art. 9 of the Rules of Procedures)Resolutions are approved by majority of the members present in the session and in case of draw when there are only 4 members present, the vote of the President counts as double. (Art. 10 of the Rules of Procedures)
Those who had declared their conscientious objection before the Permanent Commission of Human Rights of either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, before the law was enacted, they may opt either to perform the alternative service or pay (once) a contribution equivalent to 5 daily wages (approximately ₲ 406,000 in 2018[xiv]-2019[xv]). Among them, those in a state of insolvency will be exonerated from payment. (Art. 21 of Law 4013/2010)
Those COs between 18 and 26 years of age are liable for alternative civilian service. Those who had not done so during that time, and until the age of 50, may apply to be recognised as COs and should fulfil what is stipulated in Article 21 of the Law 4013/2010, (which means pay the contribution of 5 daily wages). (Art. 16 of the Rules of Procedures)
The alternative service should be of civilian nature, not combative or punitive and for the benefit of the civilian population, in the contribution of the sustainable development of the country and with a remuneration equivalent to that of the Obligatory Military Service and for an equal period as the one in the legislation in force, counting from the first day of performing the assigned alternative service (Art. 10 of Law 4013/2010).
The duration of alternative service is:
- 240 hours for those studying or working
- 480 hours for those not studying or working, with the possibility for the hours of technical training to be considered as part of the fulfilment of the alternative service
The suggestion/preference of the CO about the place of alternative civilian service is not binding (Art. 7). The National Council of Conscientious Objection decides on the place and conditions of the alternative civilian service within 30 days from receiving the declaration. It is also responsible for the supervision and for providing the conscientious objectors with a certificate after the completion of the alternative civilian service. (Art. 8 of Law 4013/2010)
The entities where the alternative service is performed are responsible to file daily forms about the presence, the fulfilment of the service and the time of work, and submit them every three months to the National Council. Once the alternative service is completed, they should send a final report of the fulfilment of it. (Art. 11 of Law 4013/2010)
The maximum duration of daily work and the days off according to the legislation are applicable also in the case of the alternative service. (Art. 12 of Law 4013/2010)
The alternative service is performed in entities of public administration, as well in private entities which are nonprofit, of public interest, especially for the social sectors in much need and of which the benefited do not belong in an exclusive manner to political or religious groups or any other ones of sectarian nature (Art.13 of Law 4013/2010). Among such entities are considered public education centres, hospital and health centres, public institutions of welfare, social action and emergency, and NGOs and other relevant public or private entities. They must be exclusively under civilian jurisdiction. (Art. 14 of Law 4013/2010)
Disciplinary offences may result in warning or suspension of leave and, if repeated, in reassignment to another service or the declaration of the CO as an offender. The disciplinary regime is regulated by the National Council. (Art.18 of Law 4013/2010)
Those not fulfilling correctly the alternative civilian service do not receive a certificate and may also be declared as offenders.
Those declared as offenders are still liable to the obligations of Article 129 of the Constitution which stipulates the obligation for military or alternative service. (Art. 20 of Law 4013/2010)
exemption from the alternative civilian service
The following categories are exempted from performing the alternative civilian service (Art. 17 of the Rules of Procedures):
a) Any person with a disability
b) The citizen who has a serious or terminal illness that prevents him from performing the alternative service, simply by presenting the medical certification.
c) Any person whose work by its nature is considered a social service (volunteer firemen, foresters), dully accredited to the National Council.
d) Any person who has completed training at the National Service of Professional Promotion or at the National System of Labour Education and Training.
problems and criticism
In 2018, Serpaj Paraguay detailed various problems of the legislation[xvi] including, but not limited to the following:
- It violates Article 129, paragraph 5, and Article 24 of the National Constitution. The law requires the young person who declares himself to be an objector to justify and explain the reasons for his objection, in violation of the provisions of Article 129, paragraph 5, of the National Constitution. This states that only the declaration of the condition of the objector is necessary (therefore, no justification is required). It also violates Article 24, which states that "No one may be bothered, investigated or forced to testify because of his beliefs or ideology”.
- It grants powers to the National Council for Conscientious Objection (a body created by this law) to determine the validity or not of the objector's declaration.
- It violates Article 14 of the National Constitution which establishes the non-retroactivity of the law.
- It establishes a time limit of 20 days after the call up for service.
- The participation in the National Council for Conscientious Objection of a member of the Ministry of Defense puts the impartiality of such a body in question.
- It grants broad powers to the Council which, in practice, will become superpowers.
- It ignores declarations of conscientious objection issued by departmental boards.
- It has a vague, imprecise, ambiguous and generic wording of several articles. This may result in the arbitrary and discretionary application of the provisions contained in the Law by the corresponding authorities. It can even lead to the commission of abuses and human rights violations against young people by State authorities and institutions.
In 2019, War Resisters International reiterated some of the above concerns. [xvii]
3. Draft evasion and desertion
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).
Deserters in peacetime get disciplinary punishment and must complete their service. In wartime they may be executed.
It is not clear whether deserters are being deliberately sought. Many are obliged to stay in hiding and have a precarious existence.
4. Annual statistics
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. This means only 20% of conscripts were performing military service.   
According to official statements, in 2018 there were approximately 58,000 people at the age for military service, but there was a place only for 4,067 in the armed forces.[xviii] [xix]
In 2019 according to CIA estimations, the Armed Forces of Paraguay have approximately 14,000 active personnel (8,500 Army; 3,000 Navy; 2,500 Air Force).[xx]
In 2014 it was announced that 780 young people would be hired for that year as “voluntary professional soldiers”.[xxi]
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 that 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. The number of COs rapidly increased to 80 in 1994; 1,457 in 1995 and well over 6,000 in 1997 - that is, 15% of called up conscripts.
According to what is cited in the Resolution N° 01/2018 of the National Council of Conscientious Objection, dated 21 December 2018, till that day there were more than 70,000 applications which had been registered to the Permanent Commissions of Human Rights of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate.
However, according to the Direction of Conscientious Objection of the Ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo), between 1992 and 2010, there were about 120,000 objectors.[xxii] According to Serpaj Paraguay, by the end of 2009 there were about 136.500.[xxiii]
According to official statements, in 2018 there was a place only for 2,800 conscientious objectors.[xxiv]
In May 2019 it was announced that 50,000 conscientious objectors which had been registered would be called up for alternative service in July.[xxv] In July 2019, it was said that the number was at least 57,000 conscientious objectors but it corresponded to the register which opened in 2010 when the law about alternative service entered into force. As for 2019, till then there were 17,000 applications with a monthly average of 3,000 conscientious objectors.[xxvi]
[iii] ABC, “Militares reclutan a indígenas para servicio militar en Mgal. Estigarribia”, 23/2/2018. https://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/politica/militares-reclutan-a-indigenas-para-servicio-militar-en-mcal-estigarribia-1677593.html
[iv] HOY, “FF.AA. de la era Abdo: la idea de recaudar a costa de los que 'chulearon' el servicio militar” 1/10/2018. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/ff.aa-de-la-era-abdo-la-idea-de-recaudar-a-costa-de-los-que-chulearon-el-servicio-militar
[v] SERPAJ – PY, “El servicio militar obligatorio como sistema disciplinador y control social de jóvenes; El derecho a la objeción de conciencia, en retroceso”, 2018, p. 336. https://www.serpajpy.org.py/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/LIBERTAD-Objecion-conciencia.pdf
[vi] Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Paraguay, 24/4/2006, para. 18. http://undocs.org/CCPR/C/PRY/CO/2
[vii] HOY, “Polémica por menores de 18 años en cuarteles: piden que Defensoría de Niñez intervenga”, 4/1/2019. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/polemica-por-menores-de-18-anos-en-cuarteles-piden-que-defensoria-de-ninez-intervenga
[viii] Ultima Hora, “Hay 142 menores enrolados entre Cimefor y Liceo Militar”, 9/1/2019. https://www.ultimahora.com/hay-142-menores-enrolados-cimefor-y-liceo-militar-n2790394.html
[ix] HOY, “Menores en SMO pueden derivar en demanda internacional”, 14/1/2019. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/menores-en-smo-pueden-derivar-en-demanda-internacional
[x] Ultima Hora, “Rechazan medida cautelar para proteger a menores en cuarteles”, 16/1/2019. https://www.ultimahora.com/rechazan-medida-cautelar-proteger-menores-cuarteles-n2791962.html
[xi] HOY, “Abdo y cimeforistas practican tiros y "anticuarteles" reavivan la polémica”, 18/1/2019. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/abdo-y-cimeforistas-practican-tiros-y-anticuarteles-reavivan-de-vuelta-la-polemica
[xiii] Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Paraguay, 24/4/2006, para. 18. http://undocs.org/CCPR/C/PRY/CO/2
[xiv] HOY, “Jóvenes de 18 a 26 años en la mira: cuartel, objeción (a pagar con servicio) o multa de 400 mil”, 20/12/2018. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/jovenes-de-18-a-26-anos-en-la-mira-cuartel-objecion-a-pagar-con-servicio-o-multa-de-400-mil
[xv] HOY, “Convocan a los 50 mil jóvenes que se anotaron como objetores de conciencia”, 30/5/2019. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/convocan-a-los-50-mil-jovenes-que-se-anotaron-como-objetores-de-conciencia
[xvi] SERPAJ – PY, “El servicio militar obligatorio como sistema disciplinador y control social de jóvenes; El derecho a la objeción de conciencia, en retroceso”, 2018, p. 337-339.
[xvii] WRI, “Paraguay: Reglamentar la Objeción por Conciencia - Estrategia de los Estados para restringir el derecho”, 28/3/2019. https://wri-irg.org/es/story/2019/paraguay-reglamentar-la-objecion-por-conciencia-estrategia-de-los-estados-para
[xviii] HOY, “FF.AA. de la era Abdo: la idea de recaudar a costa de los que 'chulearon' el servicio militar” 1/10/2018. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/ff.aa-de-la-era-abdo-la-idea-de-recaudar-a-costa-de-los-que-chulearon-el-servicio-militar
[xix] HOY, “Ante psicosis de jóvenes, militares reiteran que no arrearán ni controlarán baja”, 28/12/2018. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/ante-psicosis-de-jovenes-militares-reiteran-que-no-arrearan-ni-controlaran-baja
[xx] CIA World Factbook.
[xxi] HOY, “Instan a jóvenes a cumplir con el Servicio Militar”, 29/1/2014. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/instan-a-jovenes-a-seguir-la-carrera-militar
[xxii] HOY, “57 mil jóvenes para servicio civil en vez de SMO y todo sobre Ley que entra a regir”, 3/7/2019. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/57-mil-jovenes-para-servicio-civil-en-vez-de-smo-y-todo-sobre-ley-que-entra-a-regir
[xxiii] SERPAJ – PY, “El servicio militar obligatorio como sistema disciplinador y control social de jóvenes; El derecho a la objeción de conciencia, en retroceso”, 2018, p. 338.
[xxiv] HOY, “FF.AA. de la era Abdo: la idea de recaudar a costa de los que 'chulearon' el servicio militar” 1/10/2018. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/ff.aa-de-la-era-abdo-la-idea-de-recaudar-a-costa-de-los-que-chulearon-el-servicio-militar
[xxv] HOY, “Convocan a los 50 mil jóvenes que se anotaron como objetores de conciencia”, 30/5/2019. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/convocan-a-los-50-mil-jovenes-que-se-anotaron-como-objetores-de-conciencia
[xxvi] HOY, “57 mil jóvenes para servicio civil en vez de SMO y todo sobre Ley que entra a regir”, 3/7/2019. https://www.hoy.com.py/nacionales/57-mil-jovenes-para-servicio-civil-en-vez-de-smo-y-todo-sobre-ley-que-entra-a-regir
Recent stories on conscientious objection: Paraguay
Antimilitarist group in Paraguay rejects the creation of the National Council of Conscientious Objection
Serpaj in Paraguay have rejected the creation of the the National Council of Conscientious Objection (Consejo Nacional de Objeción de Conciencia) in Paraguay, and say they do not recognise their authority.
The Peace and Justice Service of Paraguay (Serpaj) calls for the abolition of Law 4033, for violating various Articles of the National Constitution. In addition, Serpaj rejects the creation of the National Council of Conscientious Objection (CNOC) and does not acknowledge it as a valid authority.