Country report and updates: Uruguay

Last revision: 31 Mar 1998
31 Mar 1998

1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

There is no compulsory military service in Uruguay. [1] [2]

However, a law applicable to civil servants permits their registration in order for them to receive military training. This law was passed during the Second World War but up till now has never been implemented. [6]


The minimum recruitment age is 18 years. [7]

There are three military schools which accept 15-year-old boys and girls and train them for a military career. They provide courses for air force pilots and mates in the navy. There are no other schools in Uruguay offering courses for (non-military) pilots or ship mates. [6]

The rank and file of the armed forces are classified as 'contracted volunteers' (voluntario contratado) and their contract lasts for two years. Officers' length of service is not specified. Rank and file troops sent abroad to take courses abroad are liable to face longer terms of service. [3]

There are no contracts requiring people to serve in the armed forces for more than 10 years. [4]

There is a volunteer reserve force, but they do not actually undergo reservists' training. [6]

2 Conscientious objection

There are no legal provisions for conscientious objection. [2]

3 Desertion


According to the Military Penal Code (C--digo Penal Militar), any member of the armed forces who refuses to obey a customary order may be tried by court martial for either disobedience and lack of respect (punishable by four months' to four years' imprisonment) or insubordination (punishable by eight months' to eight years' imprisonment). [3]

According to the Military Code, simple desertion (deserci--n simple) may be punished by three to 18 months' imprisonment and qualified desertion (deserci--n calificada) may be punished by from three to eight years' imprisonment. [3]


There have been no known cases of disobedience or desertion since 1986.

5 History

During the military dictatorship, many military personnel were tried for disobedience or desertion and reasons other than refusal to obey orders were found for inflicting punishment. There were cases of military personnel who were court-martialled for fictitious charges, imprisoned and, on their release, discharged from the forces with the loss of all rights. Frequently, they were badly tortured. [3]

During the dictatorship, usually, even those whose contracts had expired were not allowed to leave the forces. According to SERPAJ Uruguay, as a rule those who had committed simple desertion were not pursued. In 1986, after the period of military dictatorship, no political prisoners were left in jail, including the military who had been tried for desertion and disobedience. [3]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 25,600 strong, which is 0.80 percent of the population. [5]


[1] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1988. Report by the Secretary-General. United Nations, Geneva. [2] Embassy of Uruguay in The Hague 1996. Reply to CONCODOC questionnaire. [3] SERPAJ Uruguay 1994. Reply to a DIRB enquiry on 21 June and 24 August 1994. SERPAJ Uruguay, Montevideo, Uruguay. [4] Embassy of Uruguay in Ottawa 1994. Letter received by the DIRB, 3 June 1994. [5] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [6] SERPAJ Uruguay 1997. Information provided for CONCODOC. [7] Permanent Mission of Uruguay in Geneva, 1997. Reply to an enquiry of the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva, 8 December 1997.

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