Country Reports on Terrorism 2014 – Serbia

Overview: The Government of Serbia continued its efforts to counter international terrorism in 2014. Serbia’s law enforcement and security agencies, the Ministry of Interior (MUP)’s Directorate of Police and the Security Information Agency (BIA) in particular, continued bilateral counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. Serbia’s two main police organizations, the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit and the Counter-Terrorist Unit, operated as counterterrorism tactical response units. Serbian and U.S. government officials collaborated against potential terrorist threats. Harmonization of law enforcement protocols with EU standards remained a priority for the Serbian government.

Serbia is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. As part of Serbia’s efforts to develop a national counterterrorism center, the government sent a working-level delegation to the United States in December to speak with experts at DOJ, the FBI, the NCTC, and other agencies. The Serbian delegation included members of the MUP’s counterterrorism department, BIA, the Office of the Prosecutor for Organized Crime, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, and advisers to the Minister of the Interior. The visit provided best practices to the delegation on tracking, analyzing, and acting upon information about known or suspected terrorists. The Serbian delegation witnessed examples of successful interagency cooperation and how domestic counterterrorism efforts are incorporated into regional and global counterterrorism efforts.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Serbian government improved its legislative capabilities with regard to counterterrorism and foreign terrorist fighter issues. In October, the Serbian Parliament ratified a foreign terrorist fighter bill – as an amendment to the criminal code – prohibiting Serbian citizens’ participation in foreign armed conflicts, or supporting fighters or organizations participating in armed conflicts abroad. Serbian authorities initiated their first case related to Serbian citizens traveling to fight in Syria. The Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office indicted five individuals for conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, recruitment and training, and terrorist financing. The government has not yet ratified its National Counterterrorism Plan, which would establish the framework for future changes in legislation and authorizations for law enforcement in the case of terrorism and foreign fighter issues.

Serbia demonstrates some capabilities but does not have a strategic, interagency approach to handling terrorism-related matters. Serbia lacks non-criminal border control measures, such as the seizure of passports and travel bans, which could be used in cases in which security measures would be justified but prosecution would not be possible or desirable. Friction exists between law enforcement and prosecution elements, as well as between agencies competing for primacy on counterterrorism activities. Overlapping authorities and the lack of an overall coordination and cooperation plan further complicated efforts. Cooperation is most intense between the MUP Directorate of Police and the BIA, with sporadic friction over competencies and information sharing.

Transnational terrorism concerns within Serbia were similar to those in other Western Balkan states, which are located on an historic transit route between the Middle East and Western Europe. Serbia is also a source country of foreign terrorist fighters going to Syria and Iraq, particularly from its Sandzak and Presevo regions. Serbian authorities are sensitive to, and vigilant against, any efforts by foreign terrorists to establish a presence in, or transit through, the country. To this end, the Serbian government continued to cooperate with neighboring countries to improve border security and information sharing. The U.S. government’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program provided training courses to multiple entities within the government to address border security. However, long sections of Serbia’s borders are porous, especially those shared with Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbia’s ability to monitor and screen travelers remained limited.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Serbia is a member of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) and has observer status in the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, both Financial Action Task Force-style regional bodies. Serbia is a member of the Egmont Group, a global association of financial intelligence units.

Serbia has yet to adopt a proposed bill allowing for the seizure of terrorist assets.

Serbia implemented UN Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373, but does not have a list of designated terrorist organizations and individuals that would include, among others, persons and entities listed by the UN.

Serbian authorities have an ability to seize and forfeit terrorist assets pursuant to asset forfeiture mechanisms. Serbian authorities still lack an asset freezing mechanism. The proposed Law on Freezing of Terrorist Assets awaits adoption by the Parliament.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: Serbia is engaged in limited regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism issues. Elements of the Serbian government, such as MUP and BIA, cooperate with Interpol and Europol on counterterrorism activities, including watchlists. The Serbian armed forces participated in multinational training exercises, some of which involved aspects that could be applied to counterterrorism activities; however, the majority of these training events and exercises were not directly focused on addressing terrorism. While Serbia is a member of the NATO Partnership for Peace program, Serbia is not involved in specific counterterrorism efforts through NATO, the UN, or the OSCE. Regarding regional border security, Serbia’s level of cooperation is strongest with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania; cooperation with Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina is less developed. Because of the political sensitivity in Serbia towards Kosovo’s political status, cooperation on border security is least developed between Serbia and Kosovo. The Serbian government participated in the Foreign Terrorist Fighters roundtable for Balkan countries hosted by the State Department on the margins of the UNGA.