Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 – Serbia

Overview: With no terrorist attacks in 2017 and low levels of ISIS recruitment activities, the main terrorism threats in Serbia remained the potential movement of money and weapons through its territory, returning foreign terrorist fighters, and radicalization to violence. The government took steps to improve its ability to fight terrorism with the adoption of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism for the Period 2017-2021, and continued cooperation with international partners particularly focused on law enforcement and cyber-security efforts. A member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Serbia pledged donations of medical supplies in May. However, inexperience as a donor and internal red tape have delayed delivery of these donations and will likely limit additional financial or material contributions to the Coalition.

Serbia continued to benefit from U.S. government training to build counterterrorism capacity. As a result of multiple study visits with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Serbia adopted a similar interagency counterterrorism task force. The Office of Defense Cooperation and the Special Operations Command Europe conducted two Joint Combined Exchange Trainings with the Ministry of Interior’s Counterterrorism Unit. The Office of Defense Cooperation also sponsored 13 military officers, ministry of defense officials, and security officials to attend Counter Terrorism Fellowship Program courses. The Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program provided training and equipment to Customs and Border Police. EXBS works extensively with a Tri-Border Initiative that brings Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian agencies together for regular training, consultations, and meetings. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training Program and International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program provided numerous law enforcement and judicial training programs.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, Serbia passed the Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Authorities Combatting Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption. The law mandates each state body have a liaison officer to assist in criminal investigations and establishes four specialized anti-corruption prosecutorial units and judicial courts.

Serbia’s law enforcement capacities need improvement, but progress is steady. The Service for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (TES), a part of the Criminal Police Directorate, proactively works on terrorism detection, deterrence, and prevention. The Government of Serbia has also established interagency working groups to handle security at both the strategic and operational levels. The Operational working group consists of TES, the Security Information Agency, and the Prosecutor’s Office. Soft targets such as hotels, stadiums, tourist resorts, and shopping centers are required to have their own terrorism contingency plans in place, with TES officers providing consultation and oversight.

The Serbian Border Police use a national border management information system called “System to Check Persons and Vehicles” to screen passengers and vehicles at all border crossing/check points and other ports of entry. This system verifies the validity of travel documents, collects biographic and biometric data, checks visa status, searches national and international databases, and stores information for future use, although the transmission of this data to the central system can sometimes take several days.

Serbia’s criminal code outlaws unauthorized participation in a war or armed conflict in a foreign country consistent with United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014) and prescribes a sentence of six months to 10 years’ incarceration. Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record programs are not yet legally authorized, although adoption of UNSCR 2396 in December 2017 now makes both obligatory for all UN member states. Serbia’s Civil Aviation Directorate is working toward integration with the European Common Aviation Area and has been cooperating with international partners to enhance capacities in accordance with UNSCR 2309 on aviation security.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Serbia is a member of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL). The Serbian Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering (APML) is a member of the Egmont Group. The APML participates in trainings organized by MONEYVAL, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The Serbian Government has a “National Strategy for the Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Funding” and existing laws to comply with the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. In October, amendments were submitted to the National Assembly aimed at better aligning the Law on Freezing Assets with the Aim of Preventing Terrorism and the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing to international standards as recommended in a 2016 MONEYVAL report.

The Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office is prosecuting a case in which seven individuals are accused of criminal offenses related to terrorism and terrorism financing. The case has been ongoing since September 2014.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Serbia’s National Counterterrorism Strategy and accompanying Action Plan outline planned CVE activities aimed at identifying early factors leading to radicalization to violence, enhancing the security culture of citizens, and intercepting threats from social media messaging. The Action Plan identified 22 CVE activities and directed several ministries to develop their own strategies for implementation, including the Ministries of Culture and Information, Education, Youth and Sports, and Interior, among others. Serbia’s Interior Minister advocated for a regional center for de-radicalization that would cooperate with other Western Balkan countries. According to government officials, the threat of radicalization to violence in Serbia’s prisons is minimal, and de-radicalization is handled on a case-by-case basis through the Administration for Enforcement of Penal Sanctions.

The Serbian cities of Bujanovac, Novi Pazar, Presevo, and Tutin are members of the Strong Cities Network.

Regional and International Cooperation: Serbia is engaged in limited regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism issues. Elements of the government, including the Ministry of Interior and the Security Information Agency, cooperate with INTERPOL and Europol on counterterrorism activities, including watch lists. Serbia is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace program and assisted in NATO training of Iraqi military medical personnel. Serbia routinely participates in law enforcement training from a variety of international partners. The United Kingdom is funding a large CVE research and youth engagement program in five Serbian municipalities. In November, the Serbian gendarmerie participated in a terrorist response exercise with the Canadian Embassy. In December, Serbia co-sponsored UNSCR 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist ‎fighters.

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 also routinely engage with Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro.