Country report and updates: Morocco

Last revision: 23 juin 1998
23 juin 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription was introduced in 1966. Art. 16 of the 10 March 1972 Constitution (reviewed in 1992) states that "all citizens shall participate in the defence of the fatherland." [1] [9]

The current legal basis of conscription is unknown. Apparently a Moroccan Ministry of Defence does not exist, and the armed forces (Forces Armées Royales - FAR) are directly under the King, who has absolute power. In this way the King seeks to prevent future coup attempts by members of the armed forces. [9]

Official information on military service regulations is not available. This means that in practice conscription regulations may vary considerably.

military service

All men aged 18 to 30 are liable for military service. [9] [6] [7]

Military service lasts for 18 months. [6] [7] [8] [9]

Reservists' obligations lasts until the age of 50. [8] [9]

Students who have graduated may apply to perform 'civilian service' for two years. This means they are employed by various (semi)government departments. Every year approximately 4,000 are allowed to perform such service. [9]

postponement and exemption

Exemption is granted to those who are physically unfit and in the case of breadwinners, students, or in case the conscript is living abroad. [9]


At the age of 18, young men may be called up. Apparently not all receive a call-up. It seems urban youth are more likely to be called up than those from rural areas, because the former are expected to have had more education. [9]

Owing to the high unemployment of youths, the majority of conscripts in the armed forces seem to have joined 'voluntarily'. They serve on contract, earning some USD 200 per month, which is much more than the unemployment benefits. After serving the compulsory 18 months, they often stay on in the armed forces. Joining the armed forces is so popular that only 1 out of 60 'volunteers' is admitted. [9]

Reports indicate that Moroccan authorities in the south have strongly urged under-eighteens to enlist in the armed forces. Fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys in southern Morocco and in the occupied territory of Western Sahara have been allowed to enlist. [3]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised. In a letter written in 1992, with regard to an asylum case, the Moroccan government stated that "the concept of conscientious objection is incompatible with the principles upon which Morocco is founded as a nation and a state". [4]

However, in the past some persons have reportedly been allowed to work in underdeveloped parts of the country instead of performing military service. [1]

Graduated students may apply for 'civilian service' (see: military service), but evidently a transfer to 'civilian service' is not a right to which conscientious objectors may apply.

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Draft evasion and desertion are punishable under the 1958 Code of Military Justice (Code de Justice Militaire). [9]

Failure to perform military service is punishable by a month's to a year's imprisonment in peacetime; two to ten years' in wartime. [4] [9]

Desertion is punishable by six months' to three years' imprisonment in peacetime; five to twenty years' in wartime. 'Desertion with conspiracy' - which is considered to be any case of desertion involving two or more soldiers - may in some circumstances be punishable with the death penalty. [4]


As the armed forces are able to recruit enough 'volunteer' conscripts, it does not seem draft evaders are being searched for.

When a Moroccan applies for a passport, his military situation is checked. Those who have not performed military service will have difficulty obtaining a passport. Likewise, if they apply for a job in government departments, they are only admitted after the Ministry of Internal Affairs has given a statement of exemption from military service. [9]

About desertion not much information is available. In 1991 it was reported that five officers of the Moroccan army, who were part of 2,250 soldiers deserting on 4 February 1991, had been executed at Tazmamart. [2]

5 History

After Morocco achieved independence in 1956, the armed forces were solely composed of volunteers, most of them Berbers. In 1966 King Hassan II introduced conscription, possibly in order to change the composition of the armed forces. Following two coup attempts in 1971 and 1972 by non-elite parts of the armed forces, King Hassan abolished the Ministry of Defence, created the FAR and became Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The proportion of Arabs in the FAR increased to some 40 percent in the early 1980s, and their proportion in the officer ranks became much higher.

In 1965/1966 a 'civilian service' lasting two years was introduced. This service replaced the military service and turned out to be highly ideological. It involved military training without weapons, as the King was afraid of a coup d'etat. The 'civilian service' was meant for students in order to 'neutralise' them. After serving, most were offered jobs in government departments and became civil servants.

Morocco has claimed the territory of Western Sahara since the withdrawal of Spain in 1975, resulting in a war between the Polisario Front and Morocco. Morocco occupies most of the territory, but since the peace agreement in 1988 the FAR has not been actively engaged in fighting. But there are many human rights abuses against the Sahrawi population. So far, as the Western Sahara is still an unresolved question, there has been no investigation of the conduct of the Moroccan FAR in this conflict. [4]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 196,300 strong - 0.7 percent of the population. About 51 percent of those in active service are conscripts (100,000). [8] [9]

The reserve forces are approximately 150,000 strong. [8]

Every year approximately 300,000 men reach conscription age. [8] [9]


[1] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [2] La Guerre Non, 8 March 1991. [3] Woods, D.E. 1993. Child Soldiers, the recruitment of children into the armed forces and their participation in hostilities. Quaker Peace and Service, London, UK. [4] War Resisters' International 1994. Issues of conscience and military service. War Resisters International, London. [5] Human Rights Watch 1995. Keeping it secret; the United Nations operation in the Western Sahara. HRW, New York. [6] Brett, R. & M. McCallin 1996. Children, the invisible soldiers. Rädda Barnen, Stockholm, Sweden. [7] 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. [8] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [9] Bakker, T. et al. 1998. Moroccan Military Service Report, Europe Calling project PB 1107. HEBO, The Hague, Netherlands.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Morocco

03 Sep 2018

Le 20 août 2018, le Conseil des ministres du Maroc, présidé par le roi Mohammed VI, a approuvé un projet de loi rétablissant le service militaire obligatoire pour les jeunes de moins de 25 ans. S’il est adopté par le parlement, les hommes et les femmes âgés de 19 à 25 ans seront soumis à 12 mois de service militaire obligatoire – qui avait été aboli par le roi en 2006.

01 jan 2007

Le Maroc est sur le point d’abolir le service militaire obligatoire.

01 déc 2004

1 décembre 2004


22. Le Comité prend note des informations fournies par l’État partie selon lesquelles, d’une part, le service militaire obligatoire est de caractère subsidiaire, n’intervenant que dans le cas où le recrutement de professionnels est insuffisant, et, d’autre part, l’État partie ne reconnaît pas le droit à l’objection de conscience.

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!