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2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Serbia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Serbia, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c9b2.html [accessed 16 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

SERBIA (Tier 2)

Serbia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude. Serbian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking, and Serbian men and boys are vulnerable to forced labor within the country. Serbian citizens are subjected to forced labor in other countries, and foreign victims are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in Serbia. Foreign victims of trafficking found in Serbia originate primarily from other countries in Europe. During the past year, foreign trafficking victims in Serbia originated from Montenegro, Bosnia, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Turkey, Slovenia, Russia, and Austria. Children throughout the country, including ethnic Roma, continue to be exploited in the commercial sex trade, subjected to involuntary servitude while in forced marriage, or forced to engage in street begging. Country experts reported an increased detection of labor trafficking victims in the country in 2011.

The Government of Serbia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The Serbian government vigorously prosecuted traffickers, increased its conviction rate for trafficking offenders, and carried out innovative anti-trafficking prevention activities in 2011. Furthermore, it took critical steps to transform and institutionalize its response to victim protection in 2011 by continuing its integration of victim protection for all trafficking victims, including males and children, into the existing nationwide social protection system. In late 2011, the government provided a new building and secured state financing to establish a stand-alone national agency charged with the immediate care of foreign and domestic trafficking victims. NGOs continued to rely mostly on foreign donors to provide psychosocial and reintegration assistance to trafficking victims during the year. Notably, the Serbian government identified a significant number of trafficking victims relative to the rest of Balkan region in 2011 and improved its detection of forced labor. However, the government must continue to strive for more effective and systematic identification efforts to detect trafficking victims. Social workers, a key group of front-line responders, need further training in order to develop the capacity to identify and provide specialized psychosocial care to victims.

Recommendations for Serbia: Ensure that NGOs with a history of providing victim care in Serbia are included and integrated in the system of direct victim care, in order to ensure effective care and reintegration assistance; continue to take steps to ensure that social workers and other front-line responders are integrated into victim identification efforts and ensure that potential trafficking victims, including victims of forced labor, are proactively identified throughout Serbia; ensure availability of specialized accommodations for victims; implement pending legal reforms to ensure victims receive institutionalized support during judicial proceedings and sex trafficking victims are not prosecuted for prostitution offenses; take steps to ensure trafficking victims are not jailed or punished for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking; vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish sex and labor trafficking offenders including any officials complicit in trafficking; ensure sustained state budget funding for comprehensive assistance, including appropriate support for NGOs providing longer-term care and rehabilitation assistance to victims; take steps to establish formal partnerships between the government's central victim protection agency, NGOs, other social welfare centers, and front-line responders to continually improve outreach and victim care; encourage adoption at the local level of the interagency task force model, where appropriate, to establish a multi-disciplinary approach to handling trafficking cases; and consider the establishment of a full-time position for a national anti-trafficking coordinator.

Prosecution

The Government of Serbia sustained vigorous anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2011. The criminal code for Serbia prohibits both sex trafficking and non-sexual exploitation through Article 388; however, this criminal code does not specifically distinguish between commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Penalties prescribed under Article 388 range from three to 15 years' imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Article 390 of the criminal code prescribes penalties for "slavery or a relationship similar to slavery" with penalties of one to 10 years' imprisonment. In 2011, the government reported prosecuting 36 criminal cases (27 for sex trafficking and nine for labor trafficking) involving 68 suspected trafficking offenders in 2011, compared with its prosecution of 47 criminal cases involving 99 suspected trafficking offenders in 2010. Courts convicted 47 trafficking offenders in 2011, convicting 42 under Article 388 and five under Article 390; this is an increase from a total of 36 trafficking offenders convicted in 2010. The government reported that sentences for convicted trafficking offenders in 2011 ranged from six months to ten years' imprisonment. According to Serbian law, those sentenced to less than five years' imprisonment could be released from detention during their appeals of convictions. Overall, only 15 out of 47 convicted traffickers were serving jail time in 2011. The Ministry of Justice adopted a protocol on treatment of victims in March 2012 to improve and institutionalize the government's treatment of victims and witnesses during judicial proceedings. Some local government officials have initiated an interagency "task force" approach to encourage a coordinated, victim-centered approach to addressing trafficking cases. There were no reports of any allegations against, or investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of any officials complicit in trafficking during the reporting period. The government's refusal to cooperate directly with the Government of the Republic of Kosovo continued to hamper Serbia's efforts to investigate and prosecute some transnational trafficking.

Protection

The Government of Serbia took innovative steps to institutionalize protection and assistance to trafficking victims during the reporting period. NGOs continued to provide specialized and rehabilitative services to victims, but received only limited funding from the government to provide this critical assistance to victims in 2011. The government agency for victim protection in Belgrade identified 88 trafficking victims in 2011; this compares to 89 victims identified in 2010. The agency referred 39 victims who requested assistance to NGO assistance providers while government authorities provided other services to victims. NGOs provided comprehensive psychosocial services and reintegration assistance to trafficking victims during the year; these NGOs continued to rely mostly on foreign donors to provide this critical care. In 2011 the government worked towards establishing a more systematic, comprehensive response to victim protection; in November 2011, the government provided a facility for its new victim protection agency and urgent care center by innovatively using permanently seized criminal assets to acquire the building. The government relied on international donors to help finance the center's first year of operations. During the reporting period, the agency received the equivalent of $46,811 from the City of Belgrade government for victim protection services. In March 2012, the Government of Serbia provided funding in the amount equivalent to $54,651 to the agency, which was mandated to grant formal victim status and provide protection to victims. In practice, specific support continued to be provided by NGOs. The agency remained understaffed in 2011 during the transition period as the government continued to implement its social welfare legislation. Country experts report that the government has yet to establish the capacity to provide specialized psychosocial care required by victims of trafficking, especially children.

The government drafted a protocol on treatment of victims in June 2011, and formally adopted it in March 2012 after an extended consultation period, in an effort to improve and institutionalize the government's treatment of victims and witnesses during judicial proceedings. Country experts, however, noted concern that some judges demonstrated a lack of understanding of trafficking and reported victims' secondary victimization during court proceedings. According to an NGO that monitored trials, victims may still be subjected to intimidation from their traffickers in court. Although the courts may employ victim-sensitive approaches by allowing video testimony or prepared statements, these protection measures were rarely used in practice. NGOs continued to report that authorities failed to recognize some victims of trafficking, occasionally resulting in victims being detained, jailed, otherwise penalized, or even prosecuted for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. A 2011 report on labor trafficking, based on cases in previous years, found some labor trafficking victims were jailed based on their illegal residence in Serbia.

Prevention

The government significantly improved its trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. As a central part of Serbia's 2011 national awareness-raising campaign entitled "Better Prevent than Cure," the government co-financed and widely disseminated "Sestre" (Sisters), an award winning film on trafficking, to target potential youth victims throughout Serbia and the region. During Serbia's annual anti-trafficking month in October 2011, numerous officials took part in public events and radio and TV shows to raise awareness about human trafficking. The Ministry of Interior official charged with coordinating Serbia's anti-trafficking efforts continued to maintain an anti-trafficking website and social media site, and publicized Serbia's anti-trafficking hotline; however, this national coordinator was not funded as a full-time position. The Ministry of Interior also devoted its October 2011 bulletin to activities of police, and regional and NGO counterparts, in anti-trafficking prevention. The government coordinated with international stakeholders to develop a new anti-trafficking strategy and action plan, but did not issue a new national anti-trafficking action plan after the expiration of its current plan in 2011. The government did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government has not identified a problem with child sex tourism.

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