Country report and updates: Cuba



1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription is enshrined in art. 64 of the Constitution, according to which: "Defence of the socialist motherland is every Cuban's greatest honour and highest duty." [3]

The legal basis for conscription is the 1973 Law on General Military Service (Servicio Militar Activo y el de Reserva). [4]

Military service is performed in the Cuban armed forces or the National Revolutionary Police Force, which are run by the Ministry of the Interior. The police force is known to have difficulty filling its ranks. Consequently, conscripts may not choose for themselves where they want to perform their military service. Service in the police is unpopular because it is more dangerous than service in the armed forces. [7]

There are several paramilitary forces, the most notable the territorial militia. They were founded in 1980 and have a million members. What the recruitment policy is for these paramilitary forces is not known. [3]

military service

All citizens aged 16 to 50 are liable for military service, but in practice only men have to perform it. [3] [4]

The length of military service is three years. [2]

According to the government, young men are in practice allowed to complete their service within two years in order to study for a profession. [4]

After military service reserve service is required and involves 45 days' annual training. [1]

postponement and exemption

No information is available on the grounds for granting postponement or exemption.

Postponement is granted up to the age of 27. A man who has not performed his military service by the age of 27 receives a basic form of military training and is then put in the reserve forces. [4]


All men, once they are 16, must register for military service with the local military committee. [4]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized. Art. 54 of the constitution states that refusal to engage in armed defence of the country because of religious belief is a punishable offence. [2]

It is not clear if there is a provision for unarmed service within or outside the armed forces.

According to several sources no substitute service is available. [2] [8]

The 1973 Law on Social Service includes some rather vague clauses that seem to allow military service to be performed in social service projects. According to the government 'alternative civilian social service' may be performed for the same time as the duration of military service, at places and in roles designated by the government. It is not known if such a service is available in practice. [4]

In the past there have been several reports of Jehovah's Witnesses being imprisoned for refusing to perform military service. [2]

But according to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, in 1995 very few Jehovah's Witnesses were being detained. [6]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Draft evasion and desertion are punishable under the 1978 Criminal Code. [2] [3]

Trying to evade tasks related to military service is punishable by a fine or six months' to a year's imprisonment. If fraud is used to evade service, the penalty is a fine or six months' to two years' imprisonment. (art. 252)

Failure to report for military service is punishable by a fine and/or six months' to two years' imprisonment. (art. 253)


The government regularly refuses to issue exit permits to people approaching conscription age - even when it has authorized the rest of their families to leave once they have qualified for immigrant or refugee status in another country. [5]

6 Annual statistics

The Cuban armed forces are estimated to be 50,000 to 60,000-strong - that is, approximately 0.50 percent of the population. [1]

Every year about 90,000 men reach conscription age. [1]


[1] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London. [2] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London. [3] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1988. Report by the Secretary-General. United Nations, Geneva. [4] DIRB, 7 January 1994 [5] DIRB 1996. Cuba: The human rights situation. DIRB, Ottawa. [6] DIRB, 7 February 1995 [7] DIRB, 29 September 1997 [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.