Overview: The threat of violent Islamist extremism has been slowly growing in Kosovo since its 1999 conflict, assisted in part by funding from foreign organizations that preach extremist ideologies. Approximately 150 to 200 foreign terrorist fighters from Kosovo have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or al-Nusrah Front, of which approximately 20 have been killed. Violent extremist groups actively use social media to spread propaganda and recruit followers. To date, no terrorist incidents have taken place inside Kosovo. An online posting of a video showing a Kosovo foreign terrorist fighter beheading a youth in Syria in the summer contributed to the Government of Kosovo's decision to launch its first large-scale counterterrorism operation. The Government of Kosovo has thus far focused its counterterrorism efforts on law enforcement. Kosovar security officials began initial efforts in this year to reach out to non-security ministries, independent media, NGOs, and religious organizations to enlist their support on preventing radicalization of young people and reintegrating foreign terrorist fighters. A six-month delay in forming a new government following June elections slowed such efforts, however. The new government immediately reapproved previous draft legislation prohibiting citizens from fighting in foreign conflicts.
The Government of Kosovo welcomed cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism issues. The United States has mentored and assisted law enforcement and judicial institutions on active counterterrorism cases. The United States has provided counterterrorism training opportunities through the Export Control and Related Border Security program, the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training program, and the Office of Defense Cooperation.
Because the security and political situation in northern Kosovo continues to limit the government's ability to exercise its authority in that region, the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) and EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) work with the Kosovo Police (KP) to maintain a safe and secure environment and strengthen the rule of law, including at the borders. Kosovo's ability to exercise its authority in the north has improved since the signing of the 2013 Brussels Agreement to normalize relations with Serbia, but the two countries have yet to fully implement the agreement. Although Kosovo and neighboring Serbia do not usually cooperate on counterterrorism issues, the governments have had an Integrated Border Management (IBM) plan in place since 2013 and have participated in joint U.S. government-sponsored training.
Kosovo is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and has taken steps to support the various lines of effort within the limits of its capabilities. It has primarily focused on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, tracking and restricting financing for terrorist groups, and providing humanitarian assistance to refugees from Syria. In 2014, Kosovo authorities arrested around 70 individuals suspected of terrorism, around 40 of whom were returned foreign terrorist fighters. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is tracking the finances of individuals and NGOs suspected of connections to terrorism. The Government of Kosovo is beginning to discuss ways to counter ISIL-related propaganda, but has taken no concrete steps. Kosovo is not a member of the UN and not an official party to UNSC Resolutions 2170 and 2178, however the Government of Kosovo has pledged to implement these resolutions unilaterally.
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 in trying such cases. Kosovo officials recognized the need to improve interagency cooperation.
Kosovo has a comprehensive legal framework that covers all criminal aspects related to terrorism. The Criminal Code of Kosovo follows the UN model on counterterrorism criminal legislation and criminalizes all forms of terrorism, including commission, assistance, facilitation, recruitment, training, and incitement to commit terrorism. It also criminalizes concealment or failure to report terrorists or terrorist groups, organization and participation in terrorist groups, and preparation of terrorist offenses against the constitutional order and the security of the state of Kosovo. It defines a terrorist group as a structured group of more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert to commit terrorism. In addition, the Criminal Procedure Code provides authorities with all the necessary powers to investigate and prosecute such cases, including the possibility to use covert measures such as wiretapping, undercover agents, disclosure of financial data, and interception of computer communications. It further gives authorities flexibility to investigate criminal activity during the planning stage in order to prevent crimes and terrorist acts. The Procedural Code also allows Kosovo courts to admit evidence from other countries, thus allowing prosecution of international terrorism in Kosovo. This framework provides the relevant authorities with the tools necessary to fight all forms of terrorism.
Kosovo authorities drafted legislation in 2014 that would criminalize participation in or support for a military group that operates outside of Kosovo.
Kosovo's law enforcement authorities demonstrated some capacity to detect prospective foreign terrorist fighters and prevent them from joining the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Authorities are inexperienced in dealing with terrorism cases, however, and communications and information sharing remained a challenge for law enforcement. The Ministry of Internal Affairs revised its counterterrorism strategy. The Kosovo Police Directorate against Terrorism undertakes counterterrorism investigative functions, and has experienced resource constraints that interfere with its ability to track suspected individuals. Prosecutions of terrorism cases are handled by the Special Prosecution Office (SPRK), which is composed of local and international prosecutors. The law provides the SPRK with exclusive jurisdiction over terrorism cases. Prosecutors' lack of experience in dealing with terrorism-related cases complicates efforts to prosecute. The United States is mentoring law enforcement and prosecutors on terrorism-related cases. Representatives from Kosovo attended training activities and conferences on counterterrorism-related topics sponsored by the EU and the United States.
Kosovo has issued biometric travel and identity documents since 2013. All major border crossing points, including Pristina International Airport, are equipped with computerized fraudulent/altered document identification equipment, for which a database is updated regularly with information from other countries. The electronic Border Management System does not interface with Interpol, however, and does not always function properly. The KBP and Directorate against Terrorism also use biometric equipment to enroll suspicious foreigners entering or applying for benefits in Kosovo and locals who may be affiliated with terrorism. Although the Law on Border Control obliges airlines to submit Airline Passenger Name Recognition lists to Kosovo, KBP has had technical difficulties using the information. KBP is working with the Civilian Aviation Authority to resolve this problem. KBP applies specific profiling techniques to identify persons attempting to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL. In 2014, the KBP identified and blocked at least 12 such persons from leaving Kosovo and turned them over to the Directorate against Terrorism. Finally, with U.S. assistance, KBP is revising its curricula used to train border officers to focus more on early identification of persons affiliated with terrorism. Kosovo is not a member of the UN, Interpol or Europol; the UN Mission in Kosovo and EULEX serve as Kosovo's intermediaries with these organizations, slowing down cooperation and preventing Kosovo from having access to their screening databases.
The Government of Kosovo mounted its largest counterterrorism operation to date in summer 2014 when it arrested 59 individuals suspected of terrorist activity. Investigations were ongoing, with no indictments filed; many of these suspects remained under house arrest at year's end. The prosecution and the police were working together to collect evidence to indict these individuals. Kosovo authorities were working with EULEX to prosecute six other individuals arrested in June in connection with a separate case; all six suspects remained in detention at year's end. Six terrorism suspects arrested in a November sting operation also remained in detention while authorities investigated the case.
Kosovo showed increasing political will during the year to address threats related to terrorism, and the state possesses the legal framework to do so. However, national institutions – including investigative and prosecutorial elements – have limited capacity, resources, and experience to handle terrorism cases effectively. The United States will continue to provide training and mentoring assistance to build the capacity of these institutions overall and specifically as it relates to counterterrorism cases.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Kosovo financial intelligence unit is not a member of the Financial Action Task Force or any similar regional body. Kosovo has a Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, which allows it to comply with international anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorist finance (CFT) standards. This law also established enforcement mechanisms for the examination of reporting entities and narrowly defines terrorist financing. However, Kosovo is not a member of a Financial Action Task Force-styled regional body, and lacks an appropriate registration and monitoring system to track NGOs that receive funding from suspicious entities.
Kosovo adopted additional legislation and regulations exclusively pertaining to Terrorist Finance. In January, authorities adopted the Strategy on Prevention and Combating Informal Economy, Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and other Financial Crimes. Other legislation, amendments, and directives are pending on AML, CFT, and its indicators.
Kosovo has not consistently frozen and confiscated assets without delay. Kosovo has at least one case in which €499,000 (US $595,550) was frozen per a court decision. The case is in its initial stages, and the prosecutor may only freeze bank accounts for 72 hours, during which time the pretrial judge is obliged to approve or reject the freezing order. Under a judge's temporary order, assets may be frozen for 30 days, but owners may dispute asset freezes.
For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.
Regional and International Cooperation: The OSCE has provided training to Kosovo law enforcement on terrorism-related topics. Kosovo's membership in many regional and international organizations has been blocked because a number of countries do not recognize its independence, which impedes cooperation on many issues, including counterterrorism. Further, due to Serbia's opposition and Bosnia and Herzegovina's non-recognition, Kosovo faces difficulties in participating in regional counterterrorism initiatives.
Kosovo has undertaken several efforts in support of counterterrorism capacity building and cooperation with other states. On December 5-6, Kosovo hosted a regional conference on "Challenges in the Combat against Organized Crime and Terrorism and Cooperation in South-Eastern Europe," with support from the United States. Chief State Prosecutors from Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia participated. The conference served as a forum to promote and increase regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The Kosovar government participated in the Foreign Terrorist Fighters roundtable for Balkan countries hosted by the State Department on the margins of the UNGA.