Kosovo

Overview:  Kosovo continued CT and CVE efforts in partnership with the United States and the international community.  It is drafting a National Strategy and Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Terrorism for 2023-28.

Kosovo continued repatriating nationals from detention centers and displaced persons camps in Syria.  In May, two male Kosovan citizens were repatriated from Syria in a joint operation with the Albanian government that was supported by the United States.  These two adults were charged with terrorism offenses.  This was the third return operation.  To date Kosovo has repatriated more than 120 nationals.  An estimated 80 nationals remained in displaced persons camps or detention centers, or were unaccounted for on the battlefield in Syria.  Short sentencing for terrorism-related offenses in Kosovo persisted.

Citizens of Kosovo, domestically and abroad, are potential targets for recruitment by Violent Extremist Organizations with ethnonationalist or religious political orientation.  Separately, security issues and political instability in northern Kosovo continued restricting the Government of Kosovo’s ability to assert its authority in that region.  The NATO-led Kosovo Force and EU Rule of Law Mission collaborate with the Kosovo Police (KP) to promote a secure environment and to strengthen rule of law.  Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Embassy Pristina has noted an uptick in Russian disinformation and assessed that it is an increasingly present driver of violent extremist thinking and interethnic polarization contributing to interethnic tensions in northern Kosovo.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  In April the Government of Kosovo denounced armed attacks against police officers in northern Kosovo as acts of terrorism.  The Kosovar prosecutors classified these incidents as terrorist-related offenses and acts against the constitutional order.

In December the KP arrested former KP officer Dejan Pantic on terrorism-related offenses after an attack involving an explosive device on local election premises and municipal election staff in North Mitrovica.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Kosovo’s legislative framework broadly allows the prosecution and incarceration of individuals suspected of supporting terrorist activities or participating in foreign wars.  However, short sentences, conditional and early releases, and disorganized post-release supervision pose security threats.

The U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program provided technical equipment grants to bolster operational readiness of KP’s Counterterrorist Directorate and conducted trainings on investigative skills, terrorist plot disruption, and border security.  The United States provided training and case-specific advice for Kosovar prosecutors and continued to train Kosovar judges on sentencing guidelines and analysis.  Policing and correctional systems helped reduce prison radicalization to violence by identifying trends and threats inside penal institutions; by strengthening police, intelligence, and corrections agencies’ coordination; and by preparing security institutions with a better understanding of how violent extremism spreads post-incarceration.

Significant law enforcement actions included the following:

  • Throughout 2022, Kosovo prosecuted seven FTFs and one repatriated woman, with U.S. assistance.  Though the woman received a two-year suspended sentence for joining ISIS, Kosovo courts sentenced the repatriated FTFs to between three and four and a half years in prison for organizing and participating in ISIS’s terrorist activities.
  • In June the Basic Court in Pristina (BCP) acquitted four defendants — two charged with preparing terrorist attacks in nightclubs and churches, and against Kosovo Force, and two charged with failure to report a criminal offense — owing to lack of evidence, following a partial retrial ordered by the Court of Appeals (CoA).  In November the CoA rejected the prosecution’s appeal and upheld the BCP’s decision.
  • In October the Special Prosecution of the Republic of Kosovo (SPRK) indicted FTF Ylber Bela for organizing and participating in a terrorist group.  Bela was repatriated in May during a joint repatriation effort.
  • In December the SPRK announced an indictment against four persons for “preparation of terrorist offenses against the constitutional order.”  According to the SPRK, the four suspects attempted to create an organizational structure for committing terrorist acts in Kosovo by contacting a high-ranking ISIS individual.
  • In December the BCP acquitted Adea Batusha, Atdhe Arifi, Egzon Haliti and Frasher Krasniqi on terrorism charges.  The individuals were accused of attacking the Kosovo Assembly in 2016.
  • Throughout 2022, 11 individuals sentenced with terrorism-related offenses were released from prison. Four individuals were released on completion of sentences, two more on conditional release, and the remaining five on early release.

Countering and Financing Terrorism:  Kosovo’s legislative framework against money laundering and terrorist financing follows international standards.  Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Kosovo, is a member of the Egmont Group.  In December, Kosovo passed a law on Implementing International Targeted Financial Sanctions that equips the FIU with tools to obtain, analyze, and distribute information related to money laundering and terrorist financing.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Kosovo currently lacks a thorough CVE strategy to address emerging terrorist-related threats.  While faced with many returnees, it operates with an outdated strategy and action plan.  An interministerial group together with international organizations and civil society are developing a combined CT and CVE strategy that is expected to be approved by the Government of Kosovo in 2023.  Challenges include lack of coordination between institutions and an overly securitized CVE approach.

Kosovo continues cooperation through the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, through which Kosovo is strengthening the network of actors working on reintegrating and rehabilitating women and children who returned from conflict zones.  Thirteen Kosovo municipalities are members of the Strong Cities Network.  The United States continued CVE programming in Kosovo, such as the Embassy Pristina Public Diplomacy Section’s project focused on issues of violent extremism resulting in the documentary Extremism in the Modern World.

International and Regional Cooperation:  In 2022, Kosovo continued its cooperation with Albania and North Macedonia to enhance CT and CVE efforts and foster regional cooperation.

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