BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Overview: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) remained a cooperative counterterrorism partner and continued to increase its counterterrorism capacity in 2017. Legislative loopholes and lenient sentencing, however, remained major challenges. Some operational domestic coordination exists, but interpersonal and interagency infighting and stovepiping undermined effective cooperation. Extremist ideology and regional nationalist extremist groups remained potential sources of terrorism in BiH, and little progress was made on rehabilitation and de-radicalization. BiH is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: BiH did not pass any major counterterrorism legislation at the national level in 2017. The sub-state entity Republika Srpska adopted a new criminal code that aligns terrorism offenses with international standards and criminalizes membership in foreign paramilitary and para-police forces. At the state level, BiH also has laws prohibiting membership in para-military and para-police organizations, but sentencing remained a major challenge. Foreign terrorist fighters frequently received sentences below the minimum prescribed by the BiH criminal code, a result of judges taking mitigating circumstances into account. If sentenced to one year or less of incarceration, a convicted terrorist may opt to pay a fine rather than serve time in custody.

Although the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) proposed a draft list of amendments to strengthen foreign terrorist fighter/counterterrorism legislation in 2017, there was little political will, including in the MoJ, to secure buy-in. The amendments have been stalled since June. A proposal to remove the option for convicted foreign terrorist fighters and terrorists to pay a fine in lieu of jail time, or to secure early release (both of these amendments were included in the MoJ draft), was under consideration in parliament at the end of 2017.

A member of parliament proposed increasing foreign terrorist fighter minimum sentencing from five to eight years, although this would not address the mitigating circumstances issue. A Ministry of Security working group was in the preliminary stage of developing comprehensive amendments to the criminal code on these issues, but there was little political will to proceed given an upcoming election in October 2018.

The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) is the lead law enforcement unit performing counterterrorism functions. With approximately 25 officers working on counterterrorism cases, its effectiveness is limited. In 2017, the BiH Ministry of Security proposed legislation to increase the number of counterterrorism-focused SIPA officers to approximately 50 by upgrading the relevant unit to a department.

Law enforcement cooperation continued to suffer from interpersonal and institutional infighting. A BiH Prosecutor’s Office-led task force met only two times in 2017, and public disagreements between the Acting Chief Prosecutor, Minister of Security, and SIPA leadership undermined strategic progress on counterterrorism initiatives. At the operational level, law enforcement and prosecutors meet and work jointly on certain cases. However, shortages of counterterrorism investigators and interagency cooperation often led to investigative disruptions and the release of suspects after a brief detention.

There were no significant changes since 2016 on border security.

BiH continued its efforts to disrupt terrorist activity in 2017 through arrests:

  • On November 29, police arrested Emir Hodzic – who previously served a one-year sentence for a foreign terrorist fighter conviction – for possession of illegal weapons, including a rocket launcher.
  • In June, police arrested Enes Mesic when he attempted to illegally cross the border to Serbia, where police suspected he planned to conduct a terrorist attack. Mesic had been sentenced to three years in prison two months earlier in April for terrorist activities, but was not immediately incarcerated, highlighting another problem with the BiH justice system. In addition to Mesic, six other convicted terrorists were rearrested or returned into custody after the State Court did not imprison them immediately after sentencing.

BiH continued to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism. For example, the BiH government worked with the United States on the extradition of Mirsad Kandic, an ISIS facilitator living in Sarajevo.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: BiH is a member of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. BiH’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Intelligence Department, is a member of the Egmont Group. BiH completed its FATF Action Plan in September, which included making progress on customer due diligence and suspicious transaction reporting, as well as increasing regulation on financial and non-financial institutions. During the FATF plenary in October, FATF was granted an on-site visit to ensure implementation of these reforms. This is the next step in removing BiH from the FATF “grey list.” For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In 2017, the main religious communities in BiH (Catholic, Islamic, Jewish, and Orthodox) worked together through the Interreligious Council to promote tolerance and confront acts of bigotry or violence directed at any of these communities. The BiH Ministry of Security named its first state-level coordinator for international and domestic efforts to prevent violent extremism, largely in response to an increasing number of international programs and resources targeting violent extremism in BiH. Working in close partnership with the International Organization for Migration and other well-known international organizations, BiH supported efforts to strengthen resiliencies within identified at-risk communities, developed the capacity of religious leaders and civil society actors to counter expressions of intolerance, and piloted comprehensive community-led intervention procedures at the local and municipal level. The BiH cities of Bihac, Bijeljina, Doboj, Jablanica, Prijedor, Srebrenik, and Tuzla – and the municipality of Centar (Sarajevo) – are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: BiH’s criminal code and related legal framework are generally consistent with United Nations (UN) and European Union counterterrorism standards. The State Prosecutor’s Office also works frequently with counterparts in Serbia and Montenegro. BiH is a member of the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Regional Cooperation Council for Southeast Europe, and the Council of Europe.


KOSOVO

Overview: Kosovo continued to fight the growing threat of terrorism in 2017. Approximately 403 Kosovo citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for or join ISIS or al-Nusrah Front, of which approximately 74 are deceased. Some 133 of these individuals have returned, while approximately 196 remain in these conflict zones. This number includes 40 children born to Kosovo citizens in conflict zones. The government continued to implement its comprehensive strategy and updated its action plan for countering violent extremism (CVE). In 2017, the government drafted its third counterterrorism strategy and action plan. The Minister of Interior took the role of Counterterrorism National Coordinator in November.

The CVE strategy and action plan provide 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. Thus far, implementation has been uneven across government ministries and a lack of capacity and inadequate resources remained challenges. On December 5, the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund approved US $2.5 million in CVE program funding that could significantly bolster the government’s capacity to implement its CVE action plan. The Kosovo Police (KP) Counterterrorism Directorate continued to enhance its investigative capacities by increasing personnel and developing a cyber-counterterrorism unit.

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, extending the country’s judicial authority and access to justice for citizens. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization Kosovo Force (KFOR) and European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) continued to work with the KP to maintain a safe and secure environment and strengthen the rule of law, including at the borders.

Kosovo is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and pledged US $100,000 in support of the Coalition.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kosovo’s legislative framework is sufficient to prosecute individuals suspected of committing or supporting terrorist activities, but prosecutors lack experience with such cases. Kosovo officials recognize the need to improve interagency cooperation.

Recognizing the threats and consequences of terrorism, the government strengthened its existing counterterrorism provisions and drafted a new counterterrorism strategy in 2017. The new counterterrorism strategy provides a comprehensive approach to preventing and combating terrorism and is one of the government’s strategic priorities. On November 30, the Kosovo Assembly held the first reading of the Law on Critical Infrastructure, which passed and aims to identify, preserve, and protect national and European critical infrastructure.

Law enforcement authorities demonstrated adequate capacity to detect and prevent individuals from joining the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The KP Counterterrorism Directorate, which is responsible for counterterrorism investigations, increased capacities to track suspects, although they still lacked resources for online investigations and surveillance.

The KP and Border Police successfully interdicted several individuals attempting to join foreign conflicts, although border security gaps remained. On August 11, KP arrested two Kosovo citizens for attempting to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. The individuals left Kosovo on July 25 via the Macedonian border and arrived at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on July 26. On July 28, Turkish security forces caught them trying to enter Syria and deported them to Kosovo on August 11. On October 31, they pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Border Police regularly updated their watch list of persons suspected of connections to terrorism or criminal activities; they had 4,481 hits in 2017.

Trials and investigations continued for 51 suspects and 29 cases, which included several imams arrested since 2014 on terrorism charges. In 2017, Kosovo authorities arrested five additional individuals on terrorism-related charges. Authorities issued seven new indictments on terrorism charges involving 17 individuals.

On June 8, a Defeat-ISIS Coalition drone strike in Syria killed Kosovo terrorist leader Lavdrim Muhaxheri and fellow foreign terrorist fighter Bilall Haqifi. On June 9, Kacanik municipality’s head imam, Florim Neziraj, offered condolences at the city’s main mosque for Muhaxheri.

On June 28, Pristina’s Basic Court held the first hearing for nine Kosovo citizens suspected of planning an attack at the November 2016 Israel-Kosovo soccer match in Albania and other attacks against local and international targets in Albania and Kosovo. The KP and the Kosovo Intelligence Agency were instrumental in stopping this attack.

Kosovo continued to demonstrate political will to address threats related to terrorism, and the state possesses the legal framework to do so. 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: On February 1, Kosovo’s financial intelligence unit became a member of the Egmont Group. There are no other significant changes since the 2016 report. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The government updated its CVE action plan, which corresponds to its 2015 National Strategy. The government appointed its third National Countering Violent Extremism Coordinator on October 30, 2017. The Kosovo Justice Ministry, supported by the U.S. government, continued its implementation of a corrections program aimed at enhancing management of terrorists, and setting up frameworks for the rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of convicted terrorists. The Ministry of Interior established a reintegration department, which aims to integrate returned fighters and their accompanying families into communities. The Kosovo government took proactive steps to prepare a repatriation strategy for its citizens returning from conflict zones. The Kosovo cities of Ferizaj, Gjilan, Gjakova, Gracanica, Hani I Elezit, Kacanik, Mitrovica South, Peja/Pec, Prishtina, Prizren, Viti, Vushtrri and Zvecan are members of the Strong Cities Network.

Kosovo’s CVE strategy includes promoting counter-narratives to challenge terrorist messaging.

International and Regional Cooperation: There have been no significant changes since the 2016 report.


MACEDONIA

Overview: Macedonia cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism efforts and was a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Macedonia’s authorities assessed that ISIS members and sympathizers maintained a presence in Macedonia. Additionally, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Intelligence Agency estimated that at least 150 Macedonia nationals traveled to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Of that number, 30 were killed, 40 remained there, and 80 returned home to Macedonia.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: A Joint Combined Exchange Training with U.S. Special Forces took place in January to improve Macedonia’s ability to respond to terrorist incidents. Authorities at the MOI reported they developed operational plans to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks on soft targets including stadiums and hotels.

The MOI International Cooperation Unit upgraded from the Mobile INTERPOL Network Database (MIND) to the Fixed INTERPOL Network Database (FIND), with assistance from partner nations, to systematically screen travelers and documents at border crossings against INTERPOL databases on terrorists, fugitives, and lost and stolen travel documents. Macedonia Border Police used INTERPOL and Europol watch lists that are regularly updated and they have biometric screening capability. The Border Police also shared and received information through alerts via the Joint Contact Centers with neighboring countries (Albania, Bulgaria, and Kosovo) and INTERPOL.

Additionally, the MOI’s Bureau of Public Security worked with U.S. authorities to address corruption among border officials, resource constraints, training gaps for border police officers, and issues related to border management.

Macedonia engaged in one terrorist-plot disruption operation. In April, just before the Orthodox Easter observance, Macedonia’s authorities, in coordination with a regional partner, detained persons of interest for questioning. No charges were filed as a result of the operation.

Authorities conducted approximately four terrorism investigations into suspected terrorism-related activity of approximately 50 individuals.

On November 2, the Skopje Criminal Court found 33 defendants guilty of terrorism charges and acquitted four in connection with the May 2015 armed incident in Kumanovo, which left eight police officers and 10 members of the armed group dead. The court issued life sentences to seven defendants while another 13 were sentenced to 40 years in prison. An additional 13 were sentenced to lesser terms ranging from 12 to 20 years in prison. On November 3, another defendant who had been tried separately in connection with the same 2015 incident was sentenced to life in prison.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Macedonia’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Intelligence Office (FIO), is a member of the Egmont Group and developed new indicators for financial transactions that could be related to terrorism financing in 2017. Macedonia’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism legal framework remains largely in compliance with international standards, especially after it incorporated the latest FATF recommendations. The government continued to address deficiencies noted in MONEYVAL’s Fourth Round Evaluation Report from 2014 by drafting a new law on restrictive measures. Pending approval in parliament, the draft law will harmonize domestic legislation with United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 as well as with FATF recommendations on targeted financial sanctions related to terrorism and proliferation.

Deficiencies remained in Macedonia’s confiscation regime, which remains conviction-based and hinders effective freezing and confiscation of terrorist assets. Macedonia has an agency for the management of seized and forfeited assets, but it has limited capacity and activity. In 2017, Macedonia’s FIO received two suspicious transaction reports for terrorist financing and has sent three reports to relevant institutions for further investigation.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): In July, the government created and appointed a 44‑member National Committee for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and Counterterrorism (CT) as well as a National Coordinator for CT/CVE with a Deputy Coordinator for CT and a Deputy Coordinator for CVE. The government tasked the Committee and Coordinators to revise the 2017-2020 National CT Strategy and to draft a new National CVE Strategy as well as CT and CVE National Action Plans. The National CT/CVE Committee and Coordinator met for the first time in November to map out a plan to draft the National CVE Strategy and Action Plan, however, the government failed to provide funding to implement this plan.

The Islamic Community of Macedonia (ICM) said that it incorporated counter narratives into Friday sermons with Muslim worshipers. The ICM also conducted one CVE training session for approximately 12 imams. Local think tanks continued to research the drivers of terrorism.

The Macedonian municipalities of Aracinovo, Cair (Skopje), Gostivar, Kicevo, Kumanovo, Ohrid, Struga, and Tetovo are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: Macedonia is a willing regional and international counterterrorism partner. Fourteen members of the National CT/CVE Committee and the National CT/CVE Coordinator and Deputies participated in a three-day U.S.-funded counterterrorism-themed regional Tabletop Exercise (TTX). During the event, which was co-organized with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, participants read through a foreign terrorist fighter scenario and discussed what the government could do during the prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation phases. Participants in the TTX included delegations from Albania and Kosovo, led by those countries’ National CVE Coordinators. The Prime Minister provided opening remarks at the exercise emphasizing a whole-of-society approach to address terrorism.

Macedonia’s Border Police and Customs are members of the Southern Border Initiative, whose goal is to establish a cross-border working group consisting of border security agencies from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro to combat corruption, illicit cross-border trafficking, transnational crime, and terrorism.


SERBIA

Overview: With no terrorist attacks in 2017 and low levels of ISIS recruitment activities, the main terrorism threats in Serbia remained the potential movement of money and weapons through its territory, returning foreign terrorist fighters, and radicalization to violence. The government took steps to improve its ability to fight terrorism with the adoption of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism for the Period 2017-2021, and continued cooperation with international partners particularly focused on law enforcement and cyber-security efforts. A member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Serbia pledged donations of medical supplies in May. However, inexperience as a donor and internal red tape have delayed delivery of these donations and will likely limit additional financial or material contributions to the Coalition.

Serbia continued to benefit from U.S. government training to build counterterrorism capacity. As a result of multiple study visits with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Serbia adopted a similar interagency counterterrorism task force. The Office of Defense Cooperation and the Special Operations Command Europe conducted two Joint Combined Exchange Trainings with the Ministry of Interior’s Counterterrorism Unit. The Office of Defense Cooperation also sponsored 13 military officers, ministry of defense officials, and security officials to attend Counter Terrorism Fellowship Program courses. The Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program provided training and equipment to Customs and Border Police. EXBS works extensively with a Tri-Border Initiative that brings Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian agencies together for regular training, consultations, and meetings. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training Program and International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program provided numerous law enforcement and judicial training programs.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2017, Serbia passed the Law on Organization and Jurisdiction of State Authorities Combatting Organized Crime, Terrorism and Corruption. The law mandates each state body have a liaison officer to assist in criminal investigations and establishes four specialized anti-corruption prosecutorial units and judicial courts.

Serbia’s law enforcement capacities need improvement, but progress is steady. The Service for Combating Terrorism and Extremism (TES), a part of the Criminal Police Directorate, proactively works on terrorism detection, deterrence, and prevention. The Government of Serbia has also established interagency working groups to handle security at both the strategic and operational levels. The Operational working group consists of TES, the Security Information Agency, and the Prosecutor’s Office. Soft targets such as hotels, stadiums, tourist resorts, and shopping centers are required to have their own terrorism contingency plans in place, with TES officers providing consultation and oversight.

The Serbian Border Police use a national border management information system called “System to Check Persons and Vehicles” to screen passengers and vehicles at all border crossing/check points and other ports of entry. This system verifies the validity of travel documents, collects biographic and biometric data, checks visa status, searches national and international databases, and stores information for future use, although the transmission of this data to the central system can sometimes take several days.

Serbia’s criminal code outlaws unauthorized participation in a war or armed conflict in a foreign country consistent with United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014) and prescribes a sentence of six months to 10 years’ incarceration. Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record programs are not yet legally authorized, although adoption of UNSCR 2396 in December 2017 now makes both obligatory for all UN member states. Serbia’s Civil Aviation Directorate is working toward integration with the European Common Aviation Area and has been cooperating with international partners to enhance capacities in accordance with UNSCR 2309 on aviation security.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Serbia is a member of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL). The Serbian Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering (APML) is a member of the Egmont Group. The APML participates in trainings organized by MONEYVAL, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The Serbian Government has a “National Strategy for the Fight Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Funding” and existing laws to comply with the UNSC ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. In October, amendments were submitted to the National Assembly aimed at better aligning the Law on Freezing Assets with the Aim of Preventing Terrorism and the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing to international standards as recommended in a 2016 MONEYVAL report.

The Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office is prosecuting a case in which seven individuals are accused of criminal offenses related to terrorism and terrorism financing. The case has been ongoing since September 2014.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Serbia’s National Counterterrorism Strategy and accompanying Action Plan outline planned CVE activities aimed at identifying early factors leading to radicalization to violence, enhancing the security culture of citizens, and intercepting threats from social media messaging. The Action Plan identified 22 CVE activities and directed several ministries to develop their own strategies for implementation, including the Ministries of Culture and Information, Education, Youth and Sports, and Interior, among others. Serbia’s Interior Minister advocated for a regional center for de-radicalization that would cooperate with other Western Balkan countries. According to government officials, the threat of radicalization to violence in Serbia’s prisons is minimal, and de-radicalization is handled on a case-by-case basis through the Administration for Enforcement of Penal Sanctions.

The Serbian cities of Bujanovac, Novi Pazar, Presevo, and Tutin are members of the Strong Cities Network.

Regional and International Cooperation: Serbia is engaged in limited regional and international cooperation on counterterrorism issues. Elements of the government, including the Ministry of Interior and the Security Information Agency, cooperate with INTERPOL and Europol on counterterrorism activities, including watch lists. Serbia is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace program and assisted in NATO training of Iraqi military medical personnel. Serbia routinely participates in law enforcement training from a variety of international partners. The United Kingdom is funding a large CVE research and youth engagement program in five Serbian municipalities. In November, the Serbian gendarmerie participated in a terrorist response exercise with the Canadian Embassy. In December, Serbia co-sponsored UNSCR 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist ‎fighters.

Serbia has well-developed bilateral border security cooperation programs with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, and a Tri-Border partnership with Bosnia and Croatia. Serbian agencies also routinely engage with Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro.” (State Department)