Country Report on Terrorism 2012 - Chapter 2 - Kosovo

Overview: The Government of Kosovo continued to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism-related issues in 2012, with progress made along numerous fronts. The security and political situation in northern Kosovo continued to limit the government’s ability to exercise its authority in that region, where the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) are responsible for maintaining a safe and secure environment and strengthening the rule of law, including at the borders. While Kosovo and neighboring Serbia did not directly cooperate on counterterrorism issues, both governments worked to implement an Integrated Border Management (IBM) plan with joint checkpoints in December.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Kosovo Assembly approved a new criminal code (CC) and criminal procedure code (CPC) in December, both of which came into force on January 1, 2013. The new laws preserve the UN model on counterterrorism criminal legislation, which was also the basis of the previous code. The CC raises the punishment for terrorism-related crimes, and provides a greater range of criminal offenses to charge against putative terrorists, such as weapons offenses or intrusion into computer systems. In addition, the new CC permits the prosecution of terrorists even if a planned terrorist act is not executed. The new CPC grants Kosovo authorities a greater flexibility to investigate criminal acts in the planning stages to prevent crimes and terrorist acts. Furthermore, the CPC has an integrated confiscation process to ensure that assets related to the execution of criminal acts, both funds and weapons, are confiscated. Evidence from other countries will also be able to be used more easily in Kosovo courts, thus allowing the conduct of international counterterrorism investigations in Kosovo.

U.S. training programs, supplemented by donations of equipment through the Export and Border-Related Security Program, continued to improve the ability of the Kosovo Customs Authority and the Kosovo Border Police to control Kosovo’s borders and detect and interdict weapons and other contraband at border crossing points.

In December, the Government of Kosovo began implementing the IBM agreement reached in February with Serbia and brokered by the EU. Kosovo and Serbia opened four jointly managed crossing points by the end of 2012, with support from EULEX officials. The IBM agreement stipulates that Kosovo and Serbia will establish mechanisms for exchanging information and other data from the areas which are or may be of relevance to, the prevention, detection, and investigation of criminal activities. Implementation of the agreement is anticipated to strengthen Kosovo’s border security.

Despite implementation of the IBM agreement and the establishment of the four jointly administered crossing points, much of the traffic into northern Kosovo uses bypass roads that circumvent the official checkpoints. KFOR and EULEX are limited in their ability to shut down the illegal crossings into Kosovo, which allow traffic and goods to avoid Kosovo border and customs controls. As a consequence, the border remains porous and trafficking of goods and people is widespread.

In December, the Supreme Court of Kosovo upheld the guilty verdict of Amir Sopa, who was sentenced in 2011 to 10 years’ imprisonment on two charges of terrorism. Sopa was found guilty of firing a rocket-propelled grenade at the office of the District Court of Pristina in 2003 and sending death threats to the former mayor of Pristina on behalf of the Albanian National Army, a violent extremist organization.

Also in December, the Government of Kosovo extradited Shukri Aliu to Macedonia, where he was in pretrial detention on terrorism-related charges at year’s end. (Aliu was born in Kosovo and also holds Macedonian citizenship.) In 2011, Macedonia convicted Aliu in absentia of aggravated theft, but he is also believed to have been involved in other criminal acts in Macedonia and to have ties to terrorist organizations.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Kosovo is not a member of a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. In December, the Kosovo Assembly considered revisions to the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, which would strengthen legislation passed in 2010. The amendments, if passed, would help Kosovo fully implement international anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance standards, create enforcement mechanisms for the examination of reporting entities, and more narrowly define terrorist financing.

In order to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, and fraud, the Central Bank of Kosovo (CBK) would benefit greatly from obtaining a code from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). This code would facilitate the CBK’s monitoring of cross-border banking operations and adherence to international oversight requirements. Without this SWIFT code, Kosovo’s access to information about the nature of cross-border financial transactions is limited, and thus Kosovo is seriously hampered in its efforts to prevent terrorist financing, money laundering, and other types of fraud and corruption. The Central Bank of Kosovo has sought to join the SWIFT system since 2004.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: