Country report and updates: Chile

Chile

04/05/1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Military service is regulated by the Law of Recruitment and Mobilization of the Chilean Armed Forces (The 12 September 1978 Decree-Law no. 2306). [2] [3] [4]

military service

All men aged 18 to 45 are liable for military service. [1]

Military service lasts for 8 to 12 months in the army and air force, and 8 to 18 months in the navy. [1]

All military obligations end at the age of 45. [4]

Women may volunteer for military service.

Compulsory military service may be performed as ordinary military service, by taking special courses, or by providing services (prestaci--n de servicios). Those who have received sufficient education may, by order of the President, perform their military service by taking special courses, when so requested by the armed forces. Similarly, those with professional, occupational or trade skills or knowledge that might be useful to the armed forces may perform their military service by 'provision of services', according to which they both get military training and can contribute their expertise to national defence bodies. This 'provision of services' lasts for 180 days, and falls into two stages, each lasting no more than 90 days and at least a year elapsing between the stages (article 34 of Decree-Law 2306). [3] [4]

It is not known whether these possible alternative ways of performing military service are applied in practice. [4]

After completing their military service conscripts become reservists, however only in exceptional cases do they get called up for reservists' training. [4]

postponement and exemption

College and university students are allowed to postpone their military service. [2]

Exemption is officially granted on medical grounds and to those with a criminal record, to the clergy or studying therefor, to those living abroad and in some cases to civil servants. [2] [4]

Also close relatives of people who 'disappeared' during the dictatorship, as recognised by the Rettich commission (Law no. 19.123) are exempted. [4]

In the past there have been cases of conscripts getting exempted

- because of personal connections with an official;

- because they did not respond to the call-up;

- because they were married; or

- because they were considered leaders or militant members of some subversive group. [1]

Many try to evade military service either by obtaining a medical certificate declaring them unfit to serve or by using contacts with armed forces' officials. [1] [4]

recruitment

In the year they become 18, all men must register at recruitment centres. For women registration is voluntary. Conscripts are enlisted into the army or navy according to where they live and recruits are called up annually between February and April. They must then undergo (medical) examination to ascertain whether they are fit to serve or should be exempted. In practice military service is performed between the ages of 18 and 30. [1] [3] [4]

2 Conscientious objection

legal right

There is no legal provision for conscientious objection. [1]

On 28 August 1997 fourteen COs signed a declaration of conscientious objection to military service at a notaries' office, appealing officially to the Director General of Mobilisation to grant them the right to conscientious objection. Although the Chilean government is supposed to answer any citizen's enquiry within 15 days, they received no reply. When they complained at the Ministry of Defence and demanded an answer, the latter responded that granting such a right was not within their remit. The COs have now lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal. [4]

3 Draft evasion and desertion

penalties

Penalties for draft evasion and desertion are prescribed by the 1978 Decree-Law 2306 and by the 24 November 1992 Code of Military Justice.

Those who do not register for military service may receive minor prison sentences (presidio menor grado m'nimo), lasting from 61 to 541 days. Or they may be ordered to perform military service for twice the normal length of time - possibly amounting to as long as four years. Those who are called up but fail to appear in the military barracks are be considered remiss and punished as above. [2] [3] [4]

The current penalty for failing to respond to call-up for military reserve service may be up to five years' imprisonment under article 94 of the Penal Code and articles 74 and 75 of Decree-Law No. 2306. [3]

Desertion is punishable under art. 317 of Law 2306 by imprisonment for from 61 days to 5 years. If the desertion is in some way aggravated or occurs in wartime, punishment may be up to life imprisonment. The Code of Military Justice does not prescribe capital punishment, but in wartime deserters may be considered traitors and get sentenced to death by a war tribunal. [1] [4]

practice

In recent years the number of draft evaders has been increasing, because of the continuing abuses and maltreatment of conscripts in the armed forces. Between July 1995 and April 1997, 22 conscripts lost their lives during military service, because of abuse of power, supposed accidents or suicide. Ministry of Defence research revealed that 17.2 percent of conscripts declared they had been mistreated. SERPAJ Chile estimates the number to be about 4,600 conscripts annually. [6]

Many try to avoid military service by failing to register for military service. There number is estimated to be up to 10,000. [4]

In the past, following the Pinochet coup, there were various cases of recruits being shot for desertion or for refusing to obey orders to fusillade other persons. The case of Michel Nash in Pisagua is well known in Chile. He disobeyed orders to fusillade hence was executed himself. [1] [4]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 94,300 strong, including 32,800 conscripts. The armed forces form about 0.65 percent of the population. In addition to the regular armed forces there is a 31,200 strong paramilitary force of carabineros. [5]

Every year some 125,000 young men reach conscription age. [5]

Between 20,000 and 30,000 of them are actually recruited. [4]

Sources

[1] ROLC 1994. Informe del taller de formacion para la objecion de consciencia i encuentro latinoamericano de objecion de consciencia. Serpaj, Asuncion, Paraguay. [2] Information from the Office of the Military Attaché, Embassy of the Republic of Chile, Ottawa sent to the DIRB, 18 April 1994 and 26 September 1995. [3] Information from Comisi--n Chilena de Derechos Humanos sent to the DIRB, 29 April 1994 and 22 September 1995. [4] Baronti, Rosella 1997. Corrections and additions to the draft report. CODEPU, Santiago, Chile. [5] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [6] SERPAJ Chile 1997. Servicio militar obligatorio y violacion de los derechos humanos en Chile. SERPAJ, Santiago, Chile.

CO-alerts

Articles related to conscientious objection

01 Apr 2007
English

In the previous month, the WRI office issued the following co-alerts:

(a full archive of co-alerts is available at wri-irg.org/news/alerts)

01 Nov 2006
English

On 10 October 2006 12 total objectors presented themselves to the public in the Chilean city of Linares. These twelve objectors were the first of a wave of presentation of total objectors in opposition to the new law on military service, which came into force at the beginning of this year. According to Article 29 of the new law on military service, recruitment is mainly voluntarily. However, if the recruitment quota cannot be filled by volunteers alone, then the remainder will be filled with conscripts.

01 Oct 2005
English

Fifteen new conscientious objectors presented their CO statements on 27 September in a public act in front of the Dirección General de Movilización Nacional in Santiago, the branch of Chile's armed forces in charge of conscription.

A "Ni Casco Ni Uniforme" banner was unfolded in front of the DGMN building. Leaflets were handed down to people, while the COs entered in groups to gave the documentation to military personnel. Some participants had "square head" masks, representing the "square" mentality of the military.

01 Sep 2005
English

In August 2005 the Chilean parliament passed a new recruitment law, after almost five years of discussion. However, the parliament failed to include any regulation for the right to conscientious objection in this new law.

The new law, which will come into force in 2007, introduces several changes. According to the law, registration for military service will be automatical. In January, the Civil Registry will pass on the data of all men who completed their 18th year to the military.

Forum posts related to conscientious objection