Author: Stevan Tatalovic, Center for Comparative Conflict Studies (CFCCS)

The report offers a description and analysis of the legal and policy framework on radicalisation and de-radicalisation in the Republic of Serbia. The topic has been analysed in the wider context of human rights and freedoms relevant for de-radicalisation policy fields, such as religious freedom, secularism, sub-national identities in the period of last twenty years. After the break-up of Yugoslavia, Serbian society remained highly polarised, and the political climate has been radicalised in the recent years. Erosion of human rights and freedoms, low trust in state institutions among minority groups, youth unemployment, identity crisis, and social isolation are just a few factors that strongly shape current radicalisation trends. The synergy of different radicalisation drivers creates a breeding ground for potential extremism in Serbia, mainly oriented towards far-right in the spectrum.

The analysis of the legal framework on (de)radicalisation-relevant human rights and freedoms, like inter aliathe right to privacy, freedom of speech or expression, freedom of assembly, implies that the restrictions over the rights and freedoms are often vague, broad, and not proportionate to the purpose in a democratic society. Serbian Constitution, adopted in 2006, is the supreme legal act and all laws must be in line with it. The rule of law and division of power are some of the most important constitutional principles. As per the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia 2006, Serbia has no mandatory religion, and it is a secular state. In addition, the supreme legal act bans all types of discrimination as well as instigating ethnic, religious, racial, or other hatred. However, even though almost a third of all articles deal with human and minority rights and freedoms, the provisions regulating restrictions of these rights and freedoms are vague and leave room for misinterpretation. The important constitutional case law refers to the prohibition of neo-Nazi organisations.

This represents a potential radicalisation driver due to increased grievances. In terms of policies and practices that address these rights and freedoms, important issues have been identified, such as those concerning close state-church relations, exercising religious rights by minority religious groups, high media politicisation, non-transparent media ownership, a decline of media freedom, unsafe environment for independent journalists, limitations of freedom of assembly, lack of unique strategy for the protection of minorities, and privacy limitations. The inconsistent implementation of policies has been identified as one of the main challenges. Concerning the radicalisation leading to extremism and terrorism, Serbia’s normative framework is rather punitive and restrictive than preventive and integrative. The criminalisation of offences related to terrorism has been broadened in recent years and the life sentence has been introduced for the most severe forms of this crime. Serbia has made significant efforts to meet the EU standards in this field. The Act on Organisation and Competences of State Authorities in Suppressing Organised Crime, Terrorism and Corruption 2016 is the main law establishing the institutional framework in this area. In terms of hate speech and hate crime, the normative framework includes anti-discrimination, media, and criminal laws. In 2009, the general anti-discrimination law was adopted, which was an important step towards prohibiting hatred-driven discrimination. In addition, the Criminal Code 2005 introduced a relevant provision on hate crime in 2012. Regarding the important case law on radicalisation, the landmark case concerns the sentences for terrorism imposed on the fighters who came back to Serbia from Syria.

The policy framework on (de)radicalisation has been rounded off with the adoption of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism in 2017. Previously, the efforts in this field mostly relied upon strategies aimed at preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism as well as on anti-discrimination strategy. When it comes to programmes and practices in the field of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention, it should be noted that they are not sufficient. The State lacks resources for carrying out projects. In addition, data concerning the state projects is scarce, but this report explores several state initiatives concerning youth education, hate speech, and de-radicalisation in prisons. Existing projects are mainly implemented by Civil Society Organizations with the financial support of international stakeholders and organisations. Sub-national policies are very important, especially in at-risk communities. Local strategies and action plans focus mostly on creating a favourable environment for youth empowerment.

Two case studies presented in the report offer valuable insights into regional and local integration measures. The rationale for selecting the projects was their multisectoral approach to preventing youth radicalisation.

For more insights, see the REPORT >>, that provides a conceptual account on existing policies and laws addressing radicalisation, to pinpoint their most critical aspects and best practices, and to develop evidence-based policy and guidelines. 

Photo: by JCKole, FLICKR