Country report and updates: Ecuador

Last revision: 21 Apr 1998
21 Apr 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Art. 168 of the Constitution states that "Military service is compulsory for Ecuadorians in the form determined by law." The 15 September 1994 Law on Compulsory Military Service regulates military service. Recently, on 15 August 1997, a new regulation on the application of this law was issued (Reglamento de aplicaci--n a la ley de Servicio Militar Obligatorio). [1]

In wartime or emergency situations the National Security Law applies, according to which the armed forces are entitled to start mobilising the reserve forces. [1]

military service

All men of over 18 are liable for military service. [2] [1]

Women may be liable for compulsory military service too, if the national defence so requires. Because of ongoing Peruvian-Ecuadorian border tensions, the conscription of women was considered in 1997. [1]

Military service lasts for a year. [1] [2] [5]

All males aged between 26 and 55, even if they have not performed military service, are regarded as members of the military reserve forces. All military duties end at the age of 55. [1]

Both boys and girls in their 5th year of secondary school have to take a pre-military course (programa premilitar) if they want to graduate. It lasts for an academic year and consists of assisting in barracks and receiving military instruction on Saturdays. [1]

postponement and exemption

Postponement of military service is allowed for of up to two years in the case of students if it would interrupt their education. Postponement is permitted also in order to study abroad and to represent the country at international events. [1]

Those exempted from performing military service are

- family breadwinners;

- people married at the time of military registration or medical check-up;

- clergy and seminary students;

- the mentally or physically unfit;

- military and police school students;

- people living abroad. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Those exempted do not receive military certificates. Without these they cannot go abroad. [4]

The military certificate (cédula militar) may, legally, be bought at a Mobilisation Office. The law permitting this refers to paying "Compensation Quota" - the term applied to both those who want to buy military certificates and those who are to pay a fine for not obeying call-up. [1]

Conscripts try to evade military service in the following ways:

- by not responding to call-up;

- by producing false medical documentation so as to be declared unfit;

- by obtaining a military certificate by paying the Compensation Quota. [2]

Those with personal connections with the military and those who can afford to pay the Compensation Quotas are particularly well placed to arrange exemption from military service. [1]


Between 2 January and 31 May there is an annual military registration, at which cases of postponement, exemption and voluntary service can be raised. Thus the military lists are drawn up that are used for the ballot. [1]

On the second Friday in June there is a lottery in which both those registered and those unregistered take part. According to law, the number of chosen matches military requirements plus an additional 30 percent, to replace those who, for administrative, medical or legal reasons are dismissed. Those not selected may go home and buy a military certificate by paying the Compensation Quota. Those chosen may not leave the country and must undergo medical and psychological examination, which takes place between July and November. Call-up to report for service happens three times a year, in January, May and September, and is usually issued a month before service is due to begin. The various recruitment stages are announced in the media two months beforehand. [1] [4]

When there are insufficient recruits to fulfil the military need quota, recruitment round-ups are organised, particularly in rural areas. This type of forced recruitment is illegal. [1] [2]

Because these round-ups usually occur in rural areas, peasants and indigenous people are disproportionally represented in the armed forces. Moreover, they receive a different sort of military training. Qechua-speaking indigenous conscripts are formed into special groups that do not have to wear uniform or have their hair cut. They are taught in the Qechua language.

Upper middle class people, on the other hand, by the system of paying a compensation, can buy themselves out of military service. This means that in practice those who perform military service tend to belong to the lower classes. Only recently has recruitment started to focus on secondary school pupils. [1]

In wartime the armed forces are entitled to recruit anyone of military age at any time of year. In fact, however, when a border conflicts with Peru seemed imminent in February 1995, it was reported that hordes of young men turned up at Mobilisation Offices asking to be sent to the front. [1]

2 Conscientious objection

legal right

The Constitution does not mention conscientious objection. In 1994 the military included article 108 in the Law on Military Service, which states: "if sufficiently motivated, conscientious objection may be accepted by the Director of Mobilisation of the armed forces." Art. 93 of the 15 August 1997 Regulation lays down the application procedure. [1]

In December 1997 SERPAJ-Ecuador presented a proposal to include the right to conscientious objection and civilian substitute service in arts. 22 and 168 of the constitution to the Constitutional Assembly. [1]

procedure and practice

Conscripts must apply, using special forms, via the Centres of Recruitment and Reserves. Applications are considered by a committee that advises the Director of Mobilisation. The committee is thought to be formed of clergymen, psychologists and military personnel.

Article 108 does not mention any grounds for the recognition of conscientious objection. According to a subdirector of mobilisation, in order to be recognised a conscript applying on religious grounds should present documents signed by a bishop. [1]

Neither the government nor the armed forces supply any information on article 108 or on the right to conscientious objection. The Ecuadorian CO group even thinks the special application form does not actually exist. [1]

So far no COs have used art. 108. The Ecuadorian CO group does not advocate using it, arguing that it does not really recognise conscientious objection and that no genuine substitute service outside the armed forces is available. [1]

substitute service

Conscripts granted art. 108 status, must perform military service in the armed forces' development units, which build roads and bridges, engage in disaster relief etc. They have a military regime and receive the same military training as other conscripts except over the use of arms. [1]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Not responding to call-up is punishable by a fine. The amount of the fine is based on the length of time for which the conscript has failed to report for duty and his or her economic circumstances. [1] [2] [4]

Punishment for not performing military service consists of:

a. A fine amounting to between 7.5 per cent and 25 per cent of the conscript's minimum monthly wage for each year for which the conscript has failed to report for duty, the precise sum depending on the conscript's means. Paying of the fine does not exempt the conscript from service.

b. Suspension of citizen's rights, which means, among other things, that:

- the conscript may not hold public or private office until the required military certificate is obtained;

- students cannot enrol at or continue studying at university or college until they produce a military certificate;

- permission to go abroad is not granted by the military control offices. [1] [4]

Deserters may be fined from USD 100 to USD 500 for every year they fail to surrender to the authorities. If they cannot pay, they get a day's imprisonment for every 10 Dollarcents worth of fine. On top of this their civil rights are suspended for two years, and until their position has been sorted out they may not work in public service. [2]


In 1995, according to an officer of the Public Relations Office of the Directorate of Mobilization of the Armed Forces, the minimum fine for failing to perform military service was Sucres 30,000. Although paying the fine does not exempt a conscript from performing military service this applies only to 18- and 19-year-olds. Anyone who has failed to report for service (a remiso) may be detained, made to perform military service and fined. After the age of 19 they are not detained or obliged to perform military service. In such a case they may approach the Qualification Board a year after the service should have been performed, and by paying the fine (Compensation Quota) get their military cards or certificates. The year is calculated, not from the moment conscripts get called up, but when they were expected to start serving. [4]

Approximately 10 percent of conscripts desert within the first few days of military service. Punishment of deserters depends on for how long they had been serving. Normally nothing happens to those who desert early on, but if they have been serving for some time, they are punished according to the law. [2]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 57,100 strong, which is 0.47 percent of the population. [5]

Every year about 125,000 young men reach conscription age (18). [5]

Normally only 60 percent of conscripts obey call-up. About 20 percent are exempted and only 40 percent actually perform military service. [2]


[1] Jimenez, V. & J. 1998. Response to CONCODOC enquiry. SERPAJ, Quito, Ecuador. [2] ROLC 1994. Informe del taller de formacion para la objecion de consciencia i encuentro latinoamericano de objecion de consciencia. Serpaj, Asuncion, Paraguay. [3] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1994. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/84. United Nations, Geneva. [4] Comisi--n Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU), 1993. Letter 26 February 1993 received by the DIRB. CEDHU, Quito. [5] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Ecuador

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.

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 Sep 2007

On 27 June 2007, the Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador decided about the constitutionality of the military service law of the country.

01 Jun 2007

A case of conscientious objection from Ecuador has been admitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The case has been filed by Xavier Leon, an active member of the Ecuadorian conscientious objectors' movement.