Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 1 - Serbia

Overview: With no terrorist attacks in 2019 and low levels of ISIS recruitment activities, the main terrorism concerns in Serbia remain the potential movement of money and weapons through the region, recruitment and return of FTFs, the revitalization of terrorist ideologies, and opportunities for self-radicalization to terrorism, including racially and ethnically motivated terrorism. Serbia has built on its efforts to counter terrorism and continues cooperation with the United States and international partners. Serbia is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

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

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Serbia’s criminal code criminalizes terrorism-related offenses, including international terrorism, incitement, recruitment, using a deadly device, destruction and damage to a nuclear facility, terrorist financing, and terrorist association. The criminal code also outlaws unauthorized participation in a war or armed conflict in a foreign country and prescribes incarceration from six months to eight years, with penalties increased to 10 years for citizens who organize, train, or fund a foreign armed conflict. Although UNSCR 2396 mandates that member states develop systems to screen PNR data, currently API and PNR screening programs are not in place in Serbia. Serbia’s Civil Aviation Directorate is integrating with the European Common Aviation Area and cooperates with international partners to enhance capacities in accordance with UNSCR 2309.

Amendments to the criminal code passed in May 2019 have criminalized travel abroad to prepare for, train for, plan, or participate in the commission of terrorist acts. The amendments expand the criminal offense of terrorist financing by, among other things, specifying direct or indirect fundraising or funds collection for the purpose of financing the commission of terrorist acts. The amendments also introduce a sentence of life imprisonment for the most serious forms of terrorism.

There has been no change to the way the courts address terrorism. Current legislation stipulates that the Belgrade Higher Court’s Special Department for Organized Crime hears terrorism-related offenses and the Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office prosecutes them. The Belgrade Appellate Court’s Special Department for Organized Crime hears appeals.

Serbia’s law enforcement capacities need improvement but are progressing. The Criminal Police Directorate’s Service for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (TES) works on terrorism detection, deterrence, and prevention. Serbia’s Operational Working Group consists of TES, the Security Information Agency, and the Prosecutor’s Office. Soft targets are required to have terrorism contingency plans, with TES officers providing consultation and oversight.

The Serbian Border Police’s System to Check Persons and Vehicles (SZPLIV) screens passengers and vehicles at all border crossings and other ports of entry. SZPLIV verifies the validity of travel documents through basic indicative security elements, collects biographic and biometric data, checks visa status, searches national and international databases, and stores the information. However, data transmission to the central system can take days.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Serbia is a member of MONEYVAL, a FATF-style regional body, and has observer status in the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG). Its FIU, the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, is a member of the Egmont Group.

In June, the FATF removed Serbia from monitoring under FATF’s ongoing global AML/CFT compliance process, commonly referred to as the FATF “grey list.” In October, the Government of Serbia proposed legislative amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism to further align Serbia’s existing AML/CFT regime with recommendations of MONEYVAL and the EU’s Fifth AML Directive. In December, Serbia opened Chapter 4 of the EU acquis (Free Movement of Capital), which will require Serbia to complete further legislative alignment with the acquis and international standards, as well as demonstrate, through a track record, an improved administrative capacity to implement and enforce AML and CFT legislation.

Countering Violent Extremism: Serbia is implementing its National Strategy for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism for the Period 2017-2021 and accompanying Action Plan, which seeks to identify early factors leading to terrorist radicalization, enhance the security of its citizens, and intercept threats from social media activities. The Serbian intergovernmental CT working group meets regularly. In 2019, Serbia appointed the director of police at the Ministry of Interior as the national coordinator for countering terrorist radicalization and recruitment. The government took some steps to counter violence against minorities.

Bujanovac, Novi Pazar, Preševo, and Tutin are members of the SCN.

International and Regional Cooperation: Serbia is engaged in some regional and international cooperation on CT issues. The Ministry of the Interior and the Security Information Agency cooperate with INTERPOL and Europol on CT activities, including watchlists. In 2019, INTERPOL issued red notices at Serbia’s request for three FTFs who are Serbian citizens. Serbia, a participant in NATO’s Partnership for Peace, assisted in NATO training of Iraqi military medical personnel as part of counterterrorism efforts and routinely participates in international law enforcement training. Police officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs participated in training or study visits, including to the Special Task Force in Rome, which is part of the Italian Carabinieri, as well as to the Europol Referral Unit in The Hague.

In 2019 the OSCE deployed a mobile training team (represented by border officers from BiH, Greece, North Macedonia, the United States, and INTERPOL) in Belgrade to deliver interactive training on the identification of FTFs for Serbian border officials. Sessions included training on employing API and PNR systems and travel document security.

Serbia has well-developed bilateral border security cooperation programs with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, and a Tri-Border partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Serbian law enforcement agencies routinely engage with Albania, North Macedonia, and Montenegro.