Country Reports on Terrorism 2018 – Serbia

Overview: With no terrorist attacks in 2018 and low levels of ISIS recruitment activities, the main terrorism threats in Serbia remained the potential movement of money and weapons through the region, recruitment and return of FTFs, revitalization of terrorist ideologies, and opportunities for self-radicalization to violence. Serbia has built on its efforts to counter terrorism and continued cooperation with international partners. Serbia is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. However, inexperience as a donor and internal bureaucratic challenges have limited Serbia’s support to the Coalition.

Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Serbia in 2018.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In March, Serbia’s Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Authorities Combatting Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption went into effect. The law mandates that each state body have a liaison officer to assist in criminal investigations and establishes four specialized anti-corruption prosecutorial units and judicial courts. Under the law, the Belgrade Higher Court’s Special Department for Organized Crime hears terrorism-related offenses and the Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office (OCPO) prosecutes them. The Appellate Court’s Special Department for Organized Crime hears appeals.

Serbia’s law enforcement capacities need improvement, but are progressing. The Criminal Police Directorate’s Service for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (TES) works on terrorism detection, deterrence, and prevention. Serbia’s Operational Working Group consists of TES, the Security Information Agency (BIA), and the Prosecutor’s Office. Soft targets are required to have terrorism contingency plans, with TES officers providing consultation and oversight. In 2018, TES organized a specialized unit devoted to terrorists’ use of the internet and, for the first time, used an online undercover agent in a counterterrorism case.

The Serbian Border Police’s System to Check Persons and Vehicles (SZPLIV) screens passengers and vehicles at all border crossings and other ports of entry. SZPLIV verifies the validity of travel documents through basic indicative security elements, collects biographic and biometric data, checks visa status, searches national and international databases, and stores the information. However, data transmission to the central system can take days. Serbia used U.S. training and equipment to develop its security document screening and fraudulent document detection capabilities.

Serbia’s criminal code outlaws unauthorized participation in a war or armed conflict in a foreign country consistent with UNSCR 2178 and prescribes incarceration from six months to eight years, with penalties increased to 10 years for citizens who organize, train, or fund a foreign armed conflict. Although UNSCR 2396 mandates that member states develop systems to screen PNR data, API and PNR programs are not yet legally authorized in Serbia. Serbia’s Civil Aviation Directorate is integrating with the European Common Aviation Area and cooperates with international partners to enhance capacities in accordance with UNSCR 2309.

In April, Belgrade High Court’s Special Department for Organized Crime convicted seven individuals of terrorism, recruiting and training others in the commission of terrorist acts, and terrorism financing. OCPO prosecuted the case, which began in 2014. The convicted defendants supported ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front in Syria, recruited others to do so, and sent money to those organizations. Three defendants were convicted in absentia. Their seven individual sentences range from seven years and six months, to 11 years.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Serbia is a member of MONEYVAL and has observer status in the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism. Serbia’s FIU, the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, is a member of the Egmont Group and participates in international trainings.

Serbia has a National Strategy for the Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Funding and existing laws to implement UNSCRs 1267, 1373, 2178, and 2199. In February, the Law on Freezing of Assets with the Aim of Preventing Terrorism went into effect, in accordance with MONEYVAL recommendations and international standards. In April, the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism went into effect, which harmonizes Serbia’s regime with international requirements and standards. However, Serbia has yet to demonstrate effective implementation of these laws, and was placed on FATF’s “grey list” in 2018.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism: Serbia is implementing its National Strategy for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism for the Period 2017-2021 and accompanying Action Plan, which seeks to identify early factors leading to radicalization to violence, enhance the security culture of citizens, and intercept threats from social media activities. Serbia has not appointed a national CVE coordinator.

Bujanovac, Novi Pazar, Preševo, and Tutin are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: Serbia is engaged in some regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism issues. The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and the Security Information Agency cooperate with INTERPOL and Europol on counterterrorism activities, including watchlists. In 2018, the MOI responded to approximately 20 counterterrorism requests from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In April, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training held a workshop for OCPO prosecutors, TES investigators, and judges who handle terrorism and terrorism-financing cases. Training focused on counterterrorism and counter terrorism financing investigations, including the use of cyber investigations and U.S. legal assistance. Serbia, a NATO Partnership for Peace member, assisted in NATO training of Iraqi military medical personnel as part of anti-terrorism efforts and routinely participates in international law enforcement training.

Serbia has well-developed bilateral border security cooperation programs with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, and a Tri-Border partnership with Bosnia and Croatia. Serbian agencies routinely engage with Albania, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. In March, Serbia ceased all bilateral border security cooperation with Kosovo.