2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Serbia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||27 June 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Serbia, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee4ec.html [accessed 29 January 2015]|
Serbia (Tier 2)
Serbia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Foreign victims found in Serbia originate primarily from neighboring countries and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Children, 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. Based on recent anecdotal evidence, Serbian citizens remain vulnerable to forced labor in third countries, and foreign victims also may be subjected to forced labor in Serbia. Authorities reported an increase in the number of Serbian victims identified in the southwestern region of the country and an increase in the number of male children identified for forced begging. Serbian nationals continued to comprise the majority of identified victims in 2010.
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 took significant steps to improve and institutionalize its response to trafficking during the reporting period. In February 2011, the government secured yearly funding for the care of foreign and domestic trafficking victims – a long-standing deficiency. Although the Serbian government was a leader in the region in the number of victims it identified in 2010, this overall number declined from 2009. Insufficient funding for victim services hampered the government's ability to provide comprehensive assistance to victims. A lack of specialized shelter and services for trafficked children left some victims vulnerable to continued exploitation and re-trafficking.
Recommendations for Serbia: Improve implementation of victim identification procedures to ensure that potential trafficking victims are proactively identified by front-line responders throughout Serbia; vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish sex and labor trafficking offenders including complicit officials who facilitate trafficking; ensure institutionalized funding for comprehensive assistance and rehabilitation, and increase capacity to assist domestic and foreign trafficking victims; increase personnel and resources allocated to the government's victim protection agency to improve outreach and victim identification efforts for potential victims; increase training for social workers, police, and other front-line responders to continue to improve identification and referral of trafficking victims; and improve the delivery of specialized services and shelter for children and adult male victims of trafficking.
The Government of Serbia sustained vigorous anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2010. The criminal code for Serbia prohibits both sex trafficking and non-sexual exploitation through article 388; this criminal code does not specifically distinguish between commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Prescribed penalties 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 2010, the government reported prosecuting 47 criminal charges against 99 suspected trafficking offenders. Courts convicted 36 offenders in 2010, convicting 27 under Article 388 and nine under Article 390; this compares to a total of 40 trafficking offenders convicted in 2009. Four traffickers received sentences of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment; seven received a sentence of five to 10 years; 10 received a sentence of three to five years; seven received a sentence of one to three years; and eight received six months to one year. The government improved its sentencing for convicted traffickers in 2010 after changes to the criminal code; in 2009, the majority of sentences imposed on trafficking offenders ranged from two to four years' imprisonment. The government did not confirm how many of the convicted traffickers were in jail pending appeal, as this is determined by individual courts based on a variety of factors. According to NGOs that track the cases, however, suspected traffickers in the vast majority of ongoing first instance trials and appeals were jailed during the proceedings. By law individuals convicted for trafficking are only detained during the appeals process if their sentence was greater than five years' imprisonment. A few trafficking suspects and offenders accused or convicted of violent crimes may be freed during the pre-trial and post-conviction appeal process. NGOs reported increased sensitization of police to trafficking victims and improvements in the prosecution of other forms of trafficking in Serbia, including forced labor, forced begging, and forced marriage. The government did not prosecute trafficking-related complicity during the reporting period; officials convicted in previous years received suspended sentences for trafficking-related complicity. The government's refusal to cooperate directly with the Republic of Kosovo government continued to hamper Serbia's efforts to investigate and prosecute some transnational trafficking.
The Government of Serbia made significant progress by improving its capacity to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. In March 2011, the government remedied a long-standing deficiency by securing yearly flexible funding for victim assistance in the amount of $50,000. Serbia is a leader in the Balkan region in victim identification – a critical prerequisite for victim protection. The government's Agency for the Coordination and Protection of Victims of Trafficking in Belgrade identified 89 trafficking victims in 2010; police referred 74 of these victims. This represents a decline from 127 total victims identified and assisted in 2009. The government previously issued an order for police to aid in the proactive identification of trafficking victims, though success in identification of actual victims remained uneven. Adequate and uniform data collection and information-sharing among domestic agencies and NGOs dealing with trafficking victims remains a challenge. The government's protection agency, mandated to provide for victims' identification, protection, and referral for assistance to state institutions or NGOs, remained understaffed and underfunded in 2010. The government continued to rely on a staff of two for the official identification of all victims in Serbia. In a notable development, the government provided $25,000 to an NGO providing open shelter and rehabilitative and reintegration assistance for Serbian adult female victims. This shelter accommodated 22 victims (20 adults and two of their children) and assisted two male victims on an outreach basis during the reporting period. The government provided some funding from the remaining proceeds of a special anti-trafficking stamp for victim services, but most local and international NGOs continue to rely on outside donors to provide support and assistance to victims. In October 2010, a domestic violence shelter accommodating foreign victims ceased accepting them. In March 2011, the Belgrade municipal government remedied these deficiencies by transferring $50,000 to the protection agency in an annual grant to provide customized direct assistance and re-integration services, including accommodation for foreign trafficking victims. Further, in March 2011 the government passed comprehensive social welfare legislation, which for the first time defines trafficking victims as a separate category of beneficiaries, to help ensure consistent service delivery for victims.
The government does not have the capacity to adequately shelter and protect trafficked children who continued to be placed in orphanages or were detained in youth rehabilitation centers in Belgrade or Novi Sad. Some of these children were placed with foster families. Children placed in orphanages or youth detention centers were highly vulnerable to re-trafficking and re-victimization. Social welfare centers continue to lack the capacity to provide the necessary specialized assistance these children require; one NGO reported a social welfare center in Novi Sad returning 15-year-olds to the streets, potentially back into prostitution.
NGOs continued to report that authorities fail to recognize some victims of trafficking, which could result in victims being detained, jailed, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. In July 2010, after a formal inquiry, a Serbian court dismissed perjury and defamation charges against a trafficking victim accused of giving false testimony before the court in 2008. The trafficking victim and her daughter were allegedly threatened in court by the victim's trafficker. The trafficking suspect in the case was taken into custody by police in April 2011 pending further investigation.
The government took significant new steps to raise awareness and continued to forge partnerships with civil society to prevent trafficking in Serbia during the reporting period. In 2011, the government co-financed a Serbian film production dramatizing the actual experiences of Serbian trafficking victims aimed at awareness-raising among Serbian youth vulnerable to exploitation. The film premiered in Belgrade in April 2011, with multiple government and non-governmental stakeholders, including the Prime Minister, in attendance. In October 2010, the Office of the National Coordinator, police, and other officials participated in a number of roundtables, public debates and radio and television shows, as well as educational programs for children and young people in Serbia. Also in October, the Government Council for Combating Trafficking in Persons and international and regional experts held a discussion in the Serbian National Assembly to raise awareness among legislators and decision makers on Serbia's international obligations on trafficking. The Minister of Interior, who leads the ministerial-level, policymaking council, continued to demonstrate strong leadership and personal commitment by citing areas of needed improvement in the government's anti-trafficking efforts during public appearances. The National Coordinator and other key stakeholders continued to energetically pursue practical approaches to address challenges for Serbia's anti-trafficking efforts; however, this National Coordinator is not funded as a full-time position. The Coordinator continued to maintain an anti-trafficking website and social media site, and publicized Serbia's anti-trafficking hotline.