Country report and updates: Argentina

Last revision: 14 Apr 1998
14 Apr 1998

1 Conscription

conscription not enforced

Conscription is enshrined in art. 21 of the Argentine constitution which states: "Every Argentine citizen is obliged to bear arms in defence of his country and of this Constitution". Yet, there has been no compulsory military service since 1994. However, in the event of armed conflict or a national emergency, conscription may be re-introduced. The 5 January 1995 Law on Voluntary Military Service (Law no. 24.429 Servicio Militar Voluntario) regulates military service. According to this law, military service is performed by volunteers. But, if insufficient volunteers present themselves for enlistment in the armed forces, art. 19 of Law 24.429 allows the government to introduce compulsory military service. Such decision must be approved by the National Congress. In that case 18-year-old men may be called up for up to a year's military service under the terms set out by the previous Law 17.531 on Compulsory Military Service. [6] [8] [11]


All men and women aged 18 to 24 may volunteer for performing military service. [3]

2 Conscientious objection

legal right

In case the government decides to introduce conscription, all conscripts have a right to conscientious objection. Art. 20 of Law 24.429 states that individuals who, for "profound religious, philosophical, or moral reasons," are unable to perform their compulsory military service will be required to perform a substitute social service. This may be performed in such areas as public health and environmental projects, but in wartime it must consist of activities to do with civil protection and defence. [4] [6]

procedure and practice

How this right is exercised in practice is not known, as from 1995 onwards conscription has not been enforced.

It is neither clear whether those serving voluntarily are entitled to be released from the armed forces should they become COs.

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Deserters are tried by military courts, but the punishment for desertion is not known. When desertion is regarded as treason, the Code of Military Justice permits the death sentence.


From 1987 on all military court verdicts have had to be reviewed by the civilian federal court of appeals. [9]

When the 1995 Law on Voluntary Military Service was passed, all deserters and draft evaders were amnestied. [3]

5 History

Up to 1995 there was compulsory military service. Young men were registered as conscripts when they were 17 and were called up to perform military service at 18. In the years before 1995 only 10 percent of conscripts actually served. Approximately 90 percent were exempted - either by lot, or because of physical disability or by paying a sum of money. [5]

President Menem decided to abolish compulsory military service on 13 June 1994 and the Law on Voluntary Military Service was passed in January 1995. This surprisingly swift achievement of abolition was partly due to the public backlash over the beating to death of Omar Carrasco, a young army recruit, on 6 March 1994. Although there had been many cases of conscripts suffering human rights violations, this time the family denounced the incident and received enormous public support over their demand for justice. Two conscripts, a sergeant and one lieutenant, accused to have participated in the death of Carrasco, are in jail but all claim they are not guilty. A trial is going on to judge those who tried to cover up the case, but sofar no military has been found guilty. [2] [10]

Before the 1995 law was passed there was no legal provision for conscientious objection. Refusal to perform military service was punishable by up to four years' imprisonment. Several Jehovah's Witnesses have served three to four year prison sentences in the Campo the Mayo, the largest military base in Argentine. In the past COs have also been sentenced to perform a year's non-combatant service in the armed forces.

Ever since 1984, following the Falkland/Malvinas War, FOSMO (Frente Opositor al Servicio Militar Obligatorio - Front Opposing Compulsory Military Service) has campaigned both for the right to conscientious objection and for the abolition of compulsory military service. [1] [5] [7]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces comprise 73,000 troops, which is about 0.21 percent of the population. There is a 375,000 strong reserve force. [12]

In the final years of conscription only some 16,000 conscripts served annually, that is 10 percent of the total number of conscripts. But when conscription was abolished, the military said they required 26,500 volunteers. In 1994 there were more than 200 COs. [3]


[1] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London, UK. [2] Wandelaer, Juan de 1994. Letter to WRI-office 16 June 1994 [3] Wandelaer, Juan de 1994. Argentina: voluntary military service? Letter to Peace News, 30 August 1994. [4] Boletin Official No. 28.057, 10 January 1995. Ley No. 24.429 Servicio Militar Voluntario. [5] ROLC 1994. Informe del taller de formacion para la objecion de consciencia i encuentro latinoamericano de objecion de consciencia. Serpaj, Asuncion, Paraguay. [6] 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. [7] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1991. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1989/59. United Nations, Geneva. [8] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [9] Amnesty International 1989. When The State Kills... The Death Penalty: A Human Rights Issue. AI, USA, New York. [10] US State Department 1995. Human rights practices for the year 1994. Country reports. USA, New York. [11] Wandelaer, Juan de 1997. Corrections to the draft report. Acci--n Directa No-violenta, Buenos Aires, Argentine. [12] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Argentina

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.

We have had a kind offer from an individual donor, who will match up to £5,000 of donations from others - so by supporting War Resisters' International today your donation is worth double!