Serbia

Overview:  With no terrorist attacks in 2022, the main concerns in Serbia were repatriation of FTFs, self-radicalization to violence, bomb threats constituting acts of terrorism, and movement of migrants, money, and weapons.  Serbia continued efforts to counter terrorism and terrorist financing.  Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Serbia suspended exercises with international partners, leading to the cancellation of CT training with the United States.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no reported incidents.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  There were no significant changes since 2021. The Ministry of Interior’s (MOI’s) CT Service works on detection and deterrence and includes a Department for Preventing and Combating Extremism.  Serbia criminalizes terrorism-related offenses, including recruitment and financing.  The Criminal Code allows for life imprisonment for terrorist acts resulting in death.

Serbia has convicted seven of the 10 Serbian FTFs, some in absentia, who returned from Syria or Iraq, for terrorist-related activities, with sentences up to 11 years.  There were no new convictions of such FTFs in 2022.  Under Serbia’s Criminal Code, only suspects associated with UN-designated terrorist groups may be charged with terrorism-related offenses.  Serbia lacks legislation that fully addresses all aspects of terrorist training, funding, and recruitment.  However, in 2022, Serbia created action plans to eliminate international terrorism, conducted risk assessments for countering the financing of terrorism, and tracked financing of terrorism.

In 2022, police detained two suspected former members of the Taliban and, separately, one suspect for possession and trafficking of weapons for terrorist acts.

There was a significant increase in bomb threats:  threats totaled 140, many of which originated from outside of Serbia and targeted critical infrastructure.  A suspect was indicted on terrorism-related charges for threats targeting the Belgrade airport.

Although United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2396 calls on member states to develop Passenger Name Records (PNR) screening systems, Advance Passenger Information and PNR programs were not in place.  Third-party services handle the data Serbian airlines are required to transmit.  Serbia pledged in the 2020 “Washington Commitments” to increase airline passenger information sharing with Kosovo within the framework of broader cooperation with the United States and to strengthen screening.  Serbia is integrating with the European Common Aviation Area and cooperates with international partners in line with UNSCR 2309.

There were up to 27 Serbian FTFs and associated family members in Syria in 2022, and Serbia did not conduct any repatriations.  Serbia established reintegration teams and adopted an associated action plan to eventually receive repatriated individuals.

Under the Washington Commitments, signed in 2020, Serbia pledged to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist group and restrict its operations and financial activities.  Serbia has not made this designation or implemented measures, as it reported that it only adheres to UN designations.

There was no change to how courts address terrorism.  The Belgrade Higher Court’s Department for Organized Crime hears cases, the Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office (OCPO) prosecutes them, and the Belgrade Appellate Court’s Department for Organized Crime hears appeals.

Serbia’s CT Operational Working Group consists of the MOI, the Security and Intelligence Service, and the OCPO.  Soft targets must have terrorism contingency plans, with MOI consultation and oversight.  The MOI’s Special Antiterrorist Unit and the Ministry of Defense Military Police CT units provide tactical response.

The Border Police’s System to Check Persons and Vehicles (SZPLIV) screens passengers and vehicles at border crossings and ports of entry.  SZPLIV verifies travel documents, collects biographic and biometric data, and searches national and international databases.  However, data transmission to the central system can take days.

There were no terrorist attacks by REMVE groups, although such groups — notably pro-Russia groups — were active.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Serbia is a member of MONEYVAL (the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism) and has observer status in the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism.  Its FIU, the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering (APML), is a member of the Egmont Group.  Serbia implements a 2020-24 National Strategy for Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and adopted a new 2022-24 action plan for implementation.

The CT Service reported conducting inspections of 286 individuals, eight legal entities, and six associations, and the APML provided intelligence to the CT Service on more than 40 occasions.  Serbia froze assets of a domestically designated individual on four occasions.  The APML flagged transfers by designated nationals to FIUs in other countries.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Serbia implemented a 2017-21 National Strategy for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism.  An impact study of this strategy — a prerequisite for creation of a new strategy — was pending adoption by the government.  In 2022, Serbia conducted training for teams of police, psychologists, and social workers that address deradicalization from violence and reintegration.  The municipalities of Bujanovac, Novi Pazar, Presevo, and Tutin are members of the Strong Cities Network.

On February 17, police arrested a suspect for posting ISIS content and instructions to commit terrorist acts on the internet.  The Belgrade High Court announced proceedings for public incitement to commit terrorist acts would begin in 2023.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Serbia engages in international cooperation, including with INTERPOL and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, on watchlists.  The country maintains border security mechanisms with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, and Romania.  Serbia cooperates bilaterally with Albania, North Macedonia, and Montenegro on border security.  Serbia cooperated with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for arms control, border security, and anti-illicit finance and money laundering programs that bolstered CT efforts.  The OSCE supported Serbia’s CT efforts, including to enhance border security, and to counter violent extremism and terrorist recruitment.

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