US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for 2009 was released on June 16, 2009.
Serbia (TIER 2)
Serbia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and girls trafficked internationally and within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Foreign victims are trafficked to Serbia from Eastern Europe and Central Asia through Kosovo and Macedonia. Serbia continued to serve as a transit country for victims trafficked from Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia and destined for Italy and other countries in Western Europe.
Children, mostly Roma, continued to be trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced marriage, or forced street begging. The majority of identified victims in 2008 were Serbian women and girls trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation; over half were children. There was an increase in cases of trafficking for forced labor in 2008.
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 government increased funding for protection of victims and appointed a new National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in November 2008, though serious concerns remained about punishment of traffickers and prosecution of complicit officials. Moreover, law enforcement data provided was incomplete. The government also has not yet developed formal procedures to adequately identify and refer potential trafficking victims, seriously hampering its ability to provide assistance and protection to victims. Serbia may be negatively assessed in the next Report if it does not address these deficiencies.
Recommendations for Serbia: Provide comprehensive data on efforts to vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers; aggressively prosecute and punish officials who facilitate trafficking; implement a standardized protocol for victim identification and referral that includes the Agency for Coordination of Protection of Victims of Trafficking and NGOs, as appropriate; provide sustained direct funding for victim protection and assistance; increase training for social workers and police to improve identification of trafficking victims; develop programs to address the increasingly growing problem of trafficking for forced labor and children who are victims of trafficking; and improve prevention efforts.
The Government of Serbia continued to actively investigate trafficking cases, but it did not provide evidence it adequately prosecuted, convicted and punished trafficking offenders. Trafficking suspects accused of violent crimes often continued to be freed during the pre-trial and appeal process, posing a serious risk to their victims. The criminal code for Serbia prohibits sex and labor trafficking through its article 388, which prescribes penalties of two to 10 years, imprisonment; these are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave offenses, such as rape. In 2008, the government investigated and charged 94 persons with trafficking. The government did not provide comprehensive prosecution data, but reported that, in 2008, 18 trafficking offenders were convicted and sentenced to prison; 17 others were acquitted. The government did not provide information on the length of these sentences or whether any were suspended. It reported that it detained 29 trafficking suspects pending trial or investigation during 2008. At times, traffickers were not held in detention during pre-trial and appeals processes; by law, individuals convicted for trafficking are only detained during the appeals process if their sentence was greater than five years. Trials that last months or years and multiple appeals result in delays, sometimes by several years, in convicted traffickers serving their sentences. One of Serbia’s most infamous traffickers, sentenced to four years and three months by the Supreme Court in 2006, remains free. NGOs and international organizations reported anecdotally that sentences were increasing due to better education of judges. In December 2008, an individual was convicted of trafficking in persons in the District Court in Subotica, which sentenced him to 10 years in jail; this trafficker remains in jail pending appeal. The government did not demonstrate adequate punishment of officials complicit in trafficking. In a high profile case in Novi Pazar in August 2008, the government prosecuted and convicted 12 trafficking offenders, including the Deputy Public Prosecutor and two police officers. The principal trafficker in this case, a private citizen, received an eight-year sentence, though the two police officers received suspended sentences and the prosecutor was given a suspended sentence of three years and released for time served of one year. The prosecutor had sexually exploited some of the victims. There were no further developments in the 2007 case reported by the media of a police office investigated for facilitating the trafficking of a forced labor victim. The government’s refusal to cooperate with the Kosovo government hampers Serbia’s efforts to investigate and prosecute transnational trafficking.
The Government of Serbia increased efforts to protect victims but did not improve its identification procedures in 2008. While the government, with the assistance of international organizations, trained law enforcement officials on victim identification and treatment, the government continued to lack systematic victim identification, referral and treatment procedures and standards; trafficking cases were addressed on an ad hoc basis. The government provided three NGOs with $36,571 for victim assistance in July 2008 through the one-time sale of a special stamp. The government’s Agency of Coordination for Protection of Victims of Trafficking remained understaffed, but it received $18,501 in direct government funding, an increase compared to 2007, and also received $29,143 from the public stamp subsidy for its victim assistance funding. In 2008, the government and NGOs identified 55 trafficking victims and accommodated 20 in two NGO shelters. Identified victims generally are not detained, jailed, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked; however, government officials and organizations that deal with trafficking believe that due to the lack of systematic victim identification procedures, some victims were not identified and may have been penalized for acts committed as a result of being trafficked. In February 2008, border police arrested two trafficked girls from Uzbekistan for immigration violations. Serbia’s Ombudsman learned of the case and facilitated the girls, release from detention two weeks later. The girls declined temporary residence permits and departed Serbia at their own expense. Reportedly, their traffickers fled across the border before police were able to arrest them. According to organizations dealing with trafficking, many victims were not provided with adequate protection in court mandated by the 2006 Witness Protection Law due to the lack of court facilities that would allow victims to await court proceedings or testify in areas separated from the defendants. An NGO reported that in early 2009, one victim and her child were repeatedly threatened by the trafficker during the trial; the victim subsequently changed her testimony; she was then charged by the government with perjury and defamation. During the reporting period, six NGO-municipal multi-disciplinary teams established last year to improve victim protection continued to operate.
The Government of Serbia demonstrated some efforts to prevent trafficking in 2008. The new government appointed a new anti-trafficking national coordinator in November 2008, after the previous government left the position unfilled for many months. The government also created a ministerial-level Anti-Trafficking Council the same month. The Council and the working level Anti-Trafficking Team and Working Groups, which included NGO and international organization representatives, collaborated on a 2009-2011 national anti-trafficking action plan which the government adopted in April 2009. The Interior Minister and Justice Minister held a press conference on International Women’s Day specifically to draw attention to human trafficking. The government funded and implemented an anti-trafficking campaign that included posters displayed at airports and border crossings around the country, flyers distributed at schools and police stations, and advertisements published in the help-wanted sections of magazines. The materials were designed to warn potential victims and to ask the public to report trafficking-related activity to a police hotline. An NGO campaign targeted at potential clients of the sex trade was not funded by the government.
Full text of TIP Report 2009 available at