Niños soldados (Gerardo Vargas Areco)
The case of the child soldier that helped change the laws of Paraguay’s Armed Forces

Gerardo’s case, litigated by CEJIL and Servicio paz y justicia de Paraguay (SERPAJ – Paraguay), illustrated a common practice that took place in the Armed Forces of Paraguay: the forced recruitment of children and ill-treatment to which they were often subjected. These practices often reflected the local culture, where military figures were viewed as supreme authority and masculinity. Moreover, many of the families who sent their children to the barracks lived in abject conditions of poverty and inequality. Frequently, their enlistment was a way for them to receive food, education, health care and secure a source of future income to assist their families.

Even though the State has complied with several points of the sentence, it is still has not carried out "all necessary measures to identify, prosecute and punish all those responsible for the violations committed in this case actions" as ordered by the Court. There are also continuing reports of acts of corruption in general involving the armed forces, among which one could cite the disappearance of projectiles, diversions of food, abuse of cadets and reporting existence of ghost soldiers to hold wages. Furthermore, according to the figures mentioned in the Human Rights and Paraguay 2000 report, despite the legal ban on recruiting children into the armed forces and police of Paraguay, it estimates that only 20% of the soldiers are 18 or more and 80% are of 17 years or less. Of these, about 30.3% were 15-years-old or less, and the average is 16.4 years. 

Case impact:

  • Following this case and others involving child soldiers, the Paraguayan Government adapted domestic legislation on the recruitment of children to the military to adhere to international standards, and issued a public apology to the parents of the victim. 
  • The Government issued a public apology to the parents of the victim.