U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Serbia and Montenegro
Serbia and Montenegro (Tier 2)
The union of Serbia and Montenegro (SaM) is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked within the country and transnationally for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Victims identified in Serbia and Montenegro in 2005 came from SaM, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia. Victims trafficked from or through the union were often trafficked through Croatia, then on to Western Europe. Roma children were trafficked internally for forced begging. IOM reported a growing trend in internal trafficking involving both Serbian and Montenegrin victims; a number of these cases involved repeated exploitation of the victims. An estimated 30-50 percent of females in prostitution in Montenegro are victims of trafficking; of that number, one-half are children.
The Governments of constituent republics Serbia and Montenegro, to which most authority has devolved, do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, they are making significant efforts to do so. The two republics do not share counter-trafficking institutions, but conduct joint counter-trafficking activities on an ad hoc basis; this Report provides a separate analysis for each. Montenegro made tangible strides in prosecution and protection; Serbia increased efforts to protect victim witnesses, but law enforcement efforts remained weak. Both republics failed to take action against public officials complicit in trafficking. The Tier 2 designation is based on the weighted aggregate for both republics which, due to the significant efforts made by Montenegro, showed evidence of increasing efforts in 2005.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia made some modest, but unbalanced progress in its law enforcement response and victim protection in 2005. During the reporting period, a few major trafficking cases proceeded quickly; however, others languished in Serbian courts. The government issued a higher number of humanitarian visas for trafficking victims and began implementing a new witness protection law. Traffickers continue to receive relatively light punishment, but maximum sentencing improved to six-to-eight years in some cases. The government should institutionalize a referral mechanism to continue the increase in identification and protection for trafficking victims in Serbia. It should ensure its witness protection law is fully applied, to prevent re-traumatizing trafficking victims who are willing to assist law enforcement and testify against their traffickers. The government should continue to investigate and prosecute allegations of trafficking-related corruption and continue to take steps to improve the adjudication of trafficking cases.
The Republic of Montenegro made concrete progress in its overall anti-trafficking efforts in 2005. It increased its trafficking convictions, referred more victims for assistance and protection, and increased resources to assist and protect victims. Traffickers in Montenegro also continue to receive relatively light punishment. The government should institutionalize a referral mechanism to increase identification and protection for trafficking victims in Montenegro and ensure consistent funding for trafficking shelters. It should ensure its witness protection law is fully applied to prevent further harm to trafficking victims who are willing to assist law enforcement and testify against their traffickers. Some traffickers continued to escape official attention due to trafficking-related corruption. The government must vigorously address and prosecute trafficking-related complicity.
THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
A new criminal code for Serbia was adopted in July 2005 and became effective on January 1, 2006. It differentiates between trafficking and smuggling and covers all forms of trafficking. In 2005, the Serbian Government investigated 15 cases of trafficking, indicted 34 individuals for trafficking, and convicted 15 traffickers, a decrease from 25 convictions during the previous year. Sentences ranged from two to eight years' imprisonment. Most traffickers, however, are released after serving half of their sentences, following standard practice for all convicted criminals. In March 2006, the Serbian Supreme Court upheld an appeal of a 2004 Belgrade District Court conviction of the "Zarubica" case involving trafficking of women and girls from Moldova. The Supreme Court also increased the prison sentence from 3.5 to 4.5 years. These defendants, however, following standard judicial practice, remain on release, with no date yet set for serving actual imprisonment. Extensive police and border guard training yielded some significant results in 2005; police successfully interdicted two groups of traffickers at a border crossing in February 2006, one involving an international group of Serbians, Ukrainians, and Moldovans attempting to traffic Ukrainian girls into Serbia. There were no reports of trafficking-related corruption; however, there were allegations from one NGO of police complicity in a prostitution ring in Novi Pazar. Local officials from Novi Pazar have not responded to information requests from the NGO about these allegations.
The police and Agency for the Coordination of Protection to Victims of Trafficking worked together with NGOs to identify and refer 44 victims in 2005. All victims are provided shelter, medical and psychological services, and reintegration assistance; while NGOs provided most of these services, the government funded the salaries for workers in one shelter. The government increased the number of residence permits for victims of trafficking, approving 13 in 2005. The government amended a law to provide free medical services to trafficking victims in 2005; education of service providers is ongoing, as some NGOs reported cases of local hospitals refusing to provide services to victims. In January 2006, Serbia adopted a witness protection law applicable to victims of trafficking and implemented a victim witness protection unit. There were some reports of victims being poorly treated in courts outside Belgrade. Courts often require victims to testify against their traffickers repeatedly for criminal and civil proceedings, creating unnecessary trauma and travel costs. The government mandated that all municipalities establish a response team consisting of one police officer and one social welfare worker to provide assistance to victims; only a few local teams were active and functional in 2005, others failed to be responsive or have yet to be designated. Although Serbian police are responsible for the initial identification of trafficking victims, five victims were inappropriately detained, one of whom was deported in 2005. The police subsequently identified them as victims and transferred the four remaining victims to a shelter.
The government's anti-trafficking prevention activities remained nascent in 2005; NGOs continued to organize and fund the majority of Serbia's public information campaigns. NGOs participate in the government's anti-trafficking team and subgroups; however, the national team met only periodically throughout the reporting period and one subgroup did not meet at all. In 2005, the National Council developed and implemented a National Action Plan in consultation with NGOs. The National Council drafted an anti-trafficking strategy for 2006-2009 and submitted it to the Serbian Government for approval; the Prime Minister's office has yet to approve the strategy, but elements of the Action Plan, consistent with the proposed strategy, continue to be implemented. NGOs distributed anti-trafficking awareness pamphlets and posters to Serbian youth to warn them about becoming victims of trafficking. Consular officers sought to prevent trafficking into Serbia by refusing over 4,000 visa applications from known countries of origin.
THE REPUBLIC OF MONTENEGRO
The Government of the Republic of Montenegro improved its law enforcement response to trafficking and increased its investigations and convictions of traffickers during the reporting period. In 2005, the government issued five indictments against seven individuals, initiated 14 investigations of trafficking, and convicted six traffickers in three cases. Sentences ranged from six months to five years, and all convicted traffickers are currently serving their sentences. The government continued to provide training to police, prosecutors, judges, and other officials on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute trafficking. In 2005, in cooperation with Ukrainian officials, the government convicted and sentenced four traffickers to a total of 14 years for trafficking Ukrainian victims to Montenegro for labor exploitation. There were reports that some police and customs officials facilitated trafficking and corrupt officers provided security to commercial sex establishments in 2005.
The Government of Montenegro demonstrated increased efforts to protect and assist trafficking victims in 2005. It signed a memorandum of cooperation with NGOs to reinforce cooperation to protect and assist trafficking victims; police referred 25 victims to NGOs under the memorandum. In 2005, the government issued formal guidance on the issuance of temporary residence permits to victims of trafficking. Occasionally, police pressured victims to file formal police reports in order to qualify for shelter residency. In January 2006, the Montenegrin government took over funding for a trafficking shelter in Podgoricia, which reported housing 28 victims in 2005 and five potential victims as of February 2006. The Republic of Montenegro passed a witness protection law applicable to trafficking victims in 2004, but it has yet to apply it to protect a trafficking victim. Reportedly, border police screen for trafficking victims and informally monitor the border for evidence of trafficking; however, the government has yet to establish a formal referral mechanism to ensure victims are consistently and accurately identified and referred to NGO shelters. IOM reported that on rare occasions some potential trafficking victims were prematurely deported.
In 2005, the Montenegrin Government, in cooperation with one NGO, organized workshops in many high schools and elementary schools to raise awareness and ways to recognize the potential risks of trafficking. The office of the national coordinator required monthly anti-trafficking progress reports from all relevant state agencies and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare organized a seminar on trafficking in children. In 2005, the government updated its 2003 National Anti-Trafficking Strategy and various ministries adopted tailored action plans as required by the strategy.
Kosovo, while technically a part of Serbia and Montenegro, continued to be administered under the authority of the United Nations Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999). Since June 1999, UNMIK has provided transitional administration for Kosovo, and retains ultimate authority over anti-trafficking roles such as police and justice, but is slowly transferring capacity to local institutions. UNMIK is aware of the trafficking problem in Kosovo and continued to conduct anti-trafficking efforts with the OSCE, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), and local and international NGOs. Responsibility for social support to victims of trafficking is shared by UNMIK, PISG, and international organizations.
Kosovo is a source, transit, and destination point for women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation. Some involuntary domestic servitude and forced labor occurs. Internal trafficking continued to grow into a more serious problem. Over 80 percent of identified victims assisted were minors. IOM reported 64 percent of victims from Kosovo assisted in 2005 were internally trafficked, 15 percent were trafficked into Macedonia, with 13 percent trafficked into Albania and Italy. UNMIK's Trafficking in Human Beings Unit (THBS) reported the foreign victims it assisted were trafficked mainly from Moldova, Albania, and Bulgaria. A growing number of Albanian and Kosovar victims were re-trafficked in Kosovo in 2005. The commercial sex trade continued to shift more underground and become increasingly clandestine in Kosovo, and traffickers increasingly use financial incentives to encourage victims to refuse assistance.
There continued to be a significant gap between the number of police raids and arrests in 2005; the THBS reported that traffickers are often tipped off to its operations. The THBS carried out 2,000 raids during the reporting period, but arrested only 33 suspects. In 2005, the THBS conducted 45 searches of private residences for trafficking victims. The THBS identified 49 victims, assisted 38, and repatriated 14. In July, three Albanian citizens were convicted of trafficking and sentenced to 10 and 12 years. In November a UNHCR official was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for exploitation of a minor. The majority of sentences for traffickers ranged from one to three years. Weak sentencing for convicted traffickers continued to be a significant obstacle, due to corruption and a cultural misperception of the key differences between trafficking and smuggling and force and consent. Prosecutors reportedly do not seek the strongest charges for traffickers due to misperception, lack of training and collusion with traffickers.
Investigation and prosecution continued to be hampered by a lack of adequate witness protection in 2005. Prosecutors continued to request the victim testify in the presence of their traffickers, although the law stipulated otherwise. In 2005, a consortium of local and international actors involved in anti-trafficking (the international and local police services, victim advocates, the OSCE, and local NGOs) introduced a standard operating procedure (SOP) to improve the previous duplicative and inefficient process of victim assistance and referral. Under the SOP, identified victims are referred by the THBS to one of 23 victim advocates across Kosovo who provide direct assistance to victims.
In May 2005, the PISG published an action plan to consolidate all relevant anti-trafficking actors and actions under one framework. IOM and UNMIK led several anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in 2005, one of which targeted potential clients in the sex industry and one to increase victim assistance, including opening an anonymous hotline for victims and vulnerable groups. The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with an NGO, continued to be involved in awareness campaigns in schools.