2.2: 2.2.1

The Process: Registration and Medical Examination

The first requirement in enforcing obligatory military service is to identify those eligible. States vary in how comprehensive and accurate is their information on the identity, age, and whereabouts of their citizens, and in many instances the onus is placed on the citizen to register liability, typically a year before the age of eligibility for actual recruitment. Such a pre-registration is not however essential; some States proceed directly from their records held for other purposes. Thus Chile, in the 2005 Law on Military Service, was able to abolish registration altogether. Instead, in January each year the Civil Registry will pass to the military authorities details of all men who have completed their eighteenth year and this information will, if necessary (see p55), be used as the basis for selecting recruits.

At some stage between the establishment of the list of those eligible and the actual induction some form of examination of medical and physical fitness is usual. In Sweden the inspection involves medical and psychological tests and other inquiries about personal conditions.[1]

Enlist, Enrol, Enlistment, Enrolment are all in common use to describe the military recruitment process, but they can sometimes be ambiguous. Etymologically they refer to putting on a list, roll or register (as does the Spanish equivalent). In systems where registration of those liable for military service is a discrete step in the process, they may be used to refer to this rather than to physically joining the armed forces.

If there is a selection procedure, this may or may not precede the medical examination. It is during this time, too, that decisions on exemptions (total or conditional) and deferments are normally made, and therefore when applications to exercise the right of conscientious objection to military service may be considered.

It is typical that registration, and medical examination if that takes place at the same time, leads to the issue of some kind of certificate of eligibility for military service which may need to be produced at various times for a variety of purposes.

The act of registration, and subsequently of incorporation into active service, has important implications for the status, rights and freedoms of those affected. It is frequently the case that those who have registered - or even those who are approaching military age - lose the freedom to leave the country. In Eritrea the fact that he was approaching military age was used as a reason to deny an exit visa to a child of six.[2] In Paraguay, under Article 23 of Law 569/75, citizens may not leave their area of residence between registration for military service and the medical examination, except for very good reason, with the permission of the judicial authorities, and subject to registration with those authorities in the temporary location.


  • [1] Act on Liability for Total Defence Service, paragraph 3.2
  • [2] Amnesty International (2004), Eritrea: You have no right to ask, London