Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Kosovo

Overview: Kosovo continued to fight the threat of terrorism through close cooperation with the United States. Kosovo is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. More than 400 Kosovar men, women, and children are known to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups, of which approximately 70 are deceased. An estimated 130 individuals have returned to Kosovo, while about 200 remain in the conflict zone. In 2018, the Government of Kosovo continued to implement its comprehensive CVE strategy and updated its action plan. In 2018, the government approved its third counterterrorism strategy and action plan for 2018-22.

The security and political situation in northern Kosovo continued to limit the government’s ability to exercise its authority in that region, although the government successfully integrated Serbian judges, prosecutors, and staff into Kosovo’s judicial institutions in October 2017, extending the country’s judicial authority and access to justice for citizens. The NATO Kosovo Force and EU Rule of Law Mission continued to work with the Kosovo Police (KP) to maintain a safe and secure environment and strengthen the rule of law, including at the borders.

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

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kosovo’s legislative framework is sufficient to prosecute individuals suspected of committing or supporting terrorist activities, but there are challenges in implementation. Kosovo officials recognize the need to improve interagency cooperation.

On November 23, the Kosovo Assembly passed amendments to the criminal code, which include a variety of changes to assist in the fight against terrorism and implement the latest regional conventions and protocols, including the Council of Europe 2017 Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and the EU Directive on Combating Terrorism. The amendments cover all aspects of terrorism financing, encompassing the concept of crypto-currencies within the amended definition of funds as they represent digital value. Kosovo introduced two new laws to deal with terrorists who steal or use another person’s identity or use the account information of another person, and terrorists who travel in or out of Kosovo for terrorist activities. The latter will allow Kosovo to prosecute terrorists using Kosovo as a transit point and assist foreign countries in pursuit of terrorists.

The Government of Kosovo strengthened its existing counterterrorism provisions and approved a new counterterrorism strategy for 2018-22. The new counterterrorism strategy provides a comprehensive approach to preventing and combating terrorism and is one of the government’s strategic priorities. On March 30, the Assembly passed the Law on Critical Infrastructure, which aims to identify, preserve, and protect national and European critical infrastructure.

Law enforcement authorities demonstrated adequate capacity to detect and prevent several terrorist plots in Kosovo and abroad. The KP Counterterrorism Directorate (KPCT), which is responsible for counterterrorism investigations, increased their investigative capacities by increasing personnel and developing a cyber-counterterrorism unit. The Department of State supported these efforts through the Antiterrorism Assistance program.

The Kosovo Border Police regularly updated their watchlist of persons suspected of connections to terrorism or criminal activities; they had 33 hits in 2018. Kosovo is dedicated to full implementation of UNSCR 2396.

In June, KPCT arrested five persons suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Kosovo and Western European countries. Another person of Kosovo origin was arrested simultaneously in Germany, based on a Kosovo-issued international arrest warrant, and then extradited to Kosovo. KP units responsible for these actions benefited from significant U.S. capacity-building assistance.

In 2018, trials and investigations continued for 29 suspects and nine cases. Kosovo imams previously arrested on terrorism-related charges were acquitted. Kosovo authorities arrested six additional individuals on terrorism-related charges and courts issued 20 guilty verdicts for terrorism-related criminal offenses. Authorities issued four new indictments on terrorism charges involving 11 individuals.

On July 17, the Pristina Basic Court convicted seven defendants and acquitted one person on terrorism and weapons charges related to their participation in the Syrian conflict as ISIS members. Those convicted received sentences from 28 months to four years imprisonment.

On May 18, the Pristina Basic Court convicted eight defendants for planning an attack in Albania against the Israeli national soccer team and various Kosovo targets in November 2016. Sentences ranged from 18 months to 10 years. On September 17, the Appellate Court reduced the sentence for each defendant.

The Government of Kosovo continued to demonstrate political will to address threats related to terrorism through law enforcement and border security with significant U.S. capacity building assistance. Although national institutions continued to strengthen their capacities, limited resources and experience continue to hinder their ability to handle terrorism cases effectively.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kosovo’s FIU is a member of the Egmont Group.

Countering Violent Extremism: Kosovo’s CVE strategy and action plan provides a five-year roadmap for stemming the growing threat of terrorism through a whole-of-government approach, emphasizing the critical role of local stakeholders and civil society. Implementation has been uneven across government ministries and challenges continue due to lack of capacity and inadequate resources. In September, the Kosovo government updated its CVE action plan by adding several new activities on reintegration and rehabilitation.

The Kosovo Justice Ministry continued its implementation of a corrections program aimed at enhancing the management of terrorists in prison, and setting up frameworks for the rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of convicted terrorists. On May 23, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced the establishment of a Prevention and Reintegration Division. The aim of this division is to reintegrate individuals who served time in prison on terrorism charges, FTF returnees, and family members.

Kosovo’s CVE strategy includes the preparation and promotion of counter narratives to delegitimize terrorists’ messages. In 2018, the Government of Kosovo began working with Hedayah and Embassy Pristina to develop a national CVE communications strategy.

Kosovo organizations continued cooperative activities through the Country Support Mechanism under GCERF, a public-private global fund to support local, grassroots CVE efforts in at-risk communities.

Ferizaj, Gjakova, Gjilan, Gračanica, Hani i Elezit, Kaçanik, Mitrovica South, Peja, Prishtina, Prizen, Viti, Vushtrri, and Zvečan are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: The Government of Kosovo worked closely with officials in Albania and North Macedonia to support counterterrorism capacity building and cooperation.