Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - 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. The Government of Kosovo (GOK) is approaching the end of the timeframe envisaged by its comprehensive CVE strategy and is preparing a new comprehensive strategy and action plan for the incoming government to consider for 2020-2025.

On April 20, with U.S. assistance, Kosovo repatriated four suspected FTFs and 106 family members from Syria, becoming one of the first countries to return a large number of civilians from the conflict zone. Three of the four alleged FTFs were held in pretrial detention, while the fourth, an 18-year-old, was released and will be investigated as a juvenile. The women and children, following an initial holding period of 72 hours to provide physical and mental health screenings, were returned to their families and communities. The GOK professionally handled the returns during the initial 72-hour period. Although the government is operating a Prevention and Reintegration Division within its Ministry of Internal Affairs, limited resources and capacity continue to impede the government’s ability to provide returnees with adequate services and assistance.

2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Kosovo in 2019.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kosovo’s legislative framework is sufficient to prosecute individuals suspected of committing or supporting terrorist activities, but implementation is lacking, particularly with short sentences, early release from prison, and a lack of post-release supervision. Kosovo supports the implementation of UNSCR 2396 to counter terrorist travel and is working to implement it in practice.

On September 4, the Pristina Basic Court convicted six defendants for planning terrorist attacks in Kosovo, Albania, Belgium, France, and North Macedonia, including planned suicide bombings in Kosovo against KFOR troops, night clubs, and Serb Orthodox churches between December 2017 and June 2018. The lead defendant was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. The remaining defendants received lesser, but still significant, sentences. This case followed months of Kosovo Police and Kosovo Intelligence Agency operations with substantial U.S. investigative and prosecutorial assistance, including the tracking of attempted arms purchases.

On November 7, the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Kosovo (SPRK) filed charges in the Pristina Basic Court, Special Department, against the first of the four suspected FTFs who had been repatriated from Syria in April. Prosecutors and investigators are using battlefield evidence provided by the U.S. interagency on the suspected FTFs and some women. This first FTF pleaded guilty to participation in a terrorist group and was sentenced to four years in prison, including time served in pretrial detention. Thanks to his guilty plea, the sentence represented a permissible departure below the minimum sentence under Kosovo law (five years). A second FTF suspect was indicted on December 10.

The Pristina Basic Court in 2019 accepted guilty pleas for participation in a terrorist group from two of the women returnees from Syria, sentencing them each to suspended sentences. Under the terms of their sentences, the women will avoid time in prison if they do not commit further crimes, regularly check in with KP, and attend mandatory psychotherapy sessions. In November, similar indictments were filed against four additional women returnees, and three further women were indicted in December.

On November 18, the SPRK indicted a Kosovo citizen for incitement to commit a terrorist offense after the individual published open support and praise for the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka via social media.

On June 27, President Thaci issued a decree obligating Kosovo security institutions to create a domestic list of persons, groups, and organizations involved in terrorism who would be subject to restrictive measures in the country. President Thaci stated that until such a list is created domestically, Kosovo security institutions will implement the EU’s list, which includes Hizballah.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kosovo’s FIU is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant updates in 2019.

Countering Violent Extremism: Kosovo’s CVE strategy and action plan (2015-2020) 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, owing to a lack of capacity and inadequate resources. An inter-ministerial working group is drafting a revised strategy on counter terrorist radicalization and recruitment to focus on the reintegration of returnees.

The Kosovo Justice Ministry continued its implementation of a corrections program – assisted by U.S. experts – aimed at enhancing the management of terrorists in prison; collecting, analyzing, and sharing prison intelligence within law enforcement; and managing the rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of convicted terrorists. The Ministry of Internal Affairs Prevention and Reintegration Division is tasked with reintegrating individuals who served time in prison on terrorism charges, FTF returnees, and family members – including through funding mental health treatment and facilitating access to social services – but it suffers from insufficient staffing and resources.

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

Ferizaj/Urosevac, Gjakove/Djakovica, Gjilan/Gnjilane, Gracanica/e, Hani i Elezit/Elez Han, Kacanik, Mitrovica South, Peje/Pec, Prishtine/Pristina, Prizen, Viti/Vitina, Vushtrri/Vucitrn, and Zvecan are members of the SCN.

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