Serbia

Impact

Last updated: 22 February 2024

COUNTRY SUMMARY

Serbia is contaminated by landmines due to use by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in the late 1990s. Additional landmine contamination results from use by an NSAG in 2000–2001, in the municipalities of Bujanovac and Preševo. Since 2014, Preševo has been free of contamination, leaving Bujanovac as the only municipality still contaminated by landmines.

 

Serbia is also contaminated by cluster munition remnants that remain from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombing in 1999. Serbia has reported contamination by cluster munition remnants and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Bujanovac, Tutin, and Užice.[1]

 

Serbia is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. Its initial clearance deadline under Article 5 was in March 2014 but it has since requested three extensions, which have all been granted by States Parties. Serbia’s current Article 5 clearance deadline is 31 December 2024.[2]

 

Serbia has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions; yet operations to clear cluster munition remnants have been ongoing since 2003.[3] Clearance has been challenging due to the presence of other unexploded ordnance (UXO), consisting of large aerial bombs and scattered ordnance from unplanned explosions at a munitions storage factory.[4]

 

Risk education is coordinated by the Serbian Mine Action Center (SMAC), which is responsible for conducting training on risk education. SMAC developed a draft program for risk education.

 

Serbia is responsible for significant numbers of mine/ERW victims in need of support. Serbia’s working group on victim assistance was inactive in 2022. SMAC reported that Serbia plans to strengthen coordination between the government and survivors’ representatives.[5]

 

ASSESSING THE IMPACT

 

Contamination

 

 Extent of contamination[6]

 

Antipersonnel landmine

Cluster munition remnant

     ERW

Extent of contamination

Small

Small

Medium

Reported contamination

SHA: 0.39km²

CHA: 0.74km²

18.31km²

Note: ERW=explosive remnants of war; CHA=confirmed hazardous area; SHA=suspected hazardous area.

Landmine contamination

 

As of the end of 2022, Serbia reported a total of 0.39km² of antipersonnel mine contamination, classified as suspected hazardous area (SHA). Serbia noted that further landmine contamination exists in the municipality of Bujanovac, which was discovered after explosions were triggered by forest fires in 2019 and 2021. This contamination has not yet been fully quantified.

 

Serbia’s landmine contamination results from two periods: as a legacy of the conflicts linked to the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s; and due to antipersonnel mine use in the south of the country by an NSAG in 2000–2001.[7] The remaining contaminated areas are a result of the latter period of mine-laying and contain mines of unknown types, laid in no fixed patterns. This has complicated Serbia’s efforts to accurately survey these areas.[8]

 

Cluster munition remnants contamination

 

As of the end of 2022, cluster munition remnants contamination totaled 0.74km² of confirmed hazardous area (CHA). No SHA was reported by Serbia, though survey is still to be undertaken in areas suspected to contain cluster munition remnants in Bujanovac, Tutin, and Užice.

 

The remaining suspected cluster munition contamination is located mostly in mountainous and forested areas, but also in the debris of an old airport.[9] These areas are considered particularly important for economic development. Serbia has estimated that an additional €20 million will be required over a two-year period to fund the survey and clearance of these areas.[10]

 

Cluster munition contamination in Serbia is the result of airstrikes carried out by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in 1999, following the division of the former Yugoslavia. Sixteen municipalities in Serbia were affected by these attacks.

 

Other types of contamination

 

In 2022, Serbia recorded 18.31km² of confirmed ERW contamination. It has noted the presence of rockets, bombs, and UXO from previous conflicts including World War I, World War II, and the 1999 NATO bombings.

 

In 1944, during World War II, German battleships containing large quantities of sea mines and other explosive ordnance were sunk along the Danube River. These vessels were reported to still pose a threat to the local population, shipping lanes, and the environment.[11]

 

UXO is also thought to be present at the sites of former military depots in Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Leskovac, Novi Pazar, Paraćin, and Vranje as a result of fires and explosions.[12]

 

Casualties

 

The total number of mine/ERW casualties in Serbia, for all time, is unknown; yet it is believed to be significantly more than 1,000. From 1992–2000, a total of 1,360 casualties (24 killed and 1,336 injured) were reported by Serbia and Montenegro.[13]

 

The last confirmed landmine casualties in Serbia were reported in 2005. Over half of casualties resulting from explosive ordnance since 2016 were attributed to unexploded submunitions. The most recent casualties occurred in 2019, when three men were injured.[14]

 

5-year casualties total: 2018–2022

Year

Injured

Killed

Unknown

Total

2022

0

0

0

0

2021

0

0

0

0

2020

0

0

0

0

2019

3

0

0

3

2018

0

0

0

0

    

No mine/ERW casualties were reported in Serbia during 2020–2022.[15]

 

Cluster munition casualties

 

A report by Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) on unexploded submunitions in Serbia documented 191 cluster munition casualties (31 killed and 160 injured) from 1999–2008. The report did not differentiate between casualties that resulted directly from cluster munition strikes or those that were caused later by cluster munition remnants.[16]

 

 

 COORDINATION

Summary table[17]

Mine action

Main Coordination Body

Coordination Mechanism    

 

Strategy/plan    

 

National Mine Action Standards

 

Sector for Emergency Management, under the Ministry of Interior

 

SMAC

Direct coordination

A workplan for 2023 is included in Serbia’s 2022 Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 extension request

National standards aligned with IMAS (in development)

 

Risk education

Government Coordination Body

Coordination Mechanism

 

Strategy/plan

 

National Mine Action Standards

 

SMAC

Direct coordination

EORE program developed by SMAC

National standards aligned with IMAS 12.10 on Risk Education ( in development)

Victim assistance

Government Coordination Body

Coordination Mechanism

 

Strategy/plan

 

National Mine Action Standards

 

Sector for Protection of Veterans with Disabilities, under the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs

Direct coordination

Working Group on Victim Assistance (inactive)

None

Note: SMAC=Serbian Mine Action Center; IMAS=International Mine Action Standards; EORE=Explosive Ordnance Risk Education.

 

 

ADDRESSING THE IMPACT

 

Clearance

 

Highlights from 2022


In 2022, SMAC, the Ministry of Interior, and PMC Engineering attended a regional course on Quality Management in Mine Action, held in Rome for representatives of the Balkan countries. It was organized by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) in cooperation with the Italian Counter-IED Center of Excellence.[18] SMAC representatives also attended a training course in Switzerland on the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS).[19]

 

In December 2022, SMAC participated in a regional NPA workshop in Sarajevo, which aimed to enhance quality management in mine action.[20]

 

Management and coordination

 

Management and coordination overview

 

The Ministry of Interior acts as Serbia’s national mine action authority. It supervises the work of SMAC, accredits operators, and is tasked with developing Standard Operating Procedures.

 

SMAC is responsible for coordinating mine and ERW clearance, collecting and managing mine action data, and surveying SHAs. It plans but does not directly carry out demining operations. SMAC conducts quality control and monitoring of clearance operations, and ensures that IMAS are implemented by operators. It also conducts risk education.[21]

 

Serbia’s mine action program is integrated within the national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as the municipalities affected by mine/ERW contamination are among the poorest.[22]

 

Legislation and standards

 

National mine action standards, aligned with IMAS, are under development.

 

A new decree on protection against ERW, developed by SMAC and the Ministry of Interior, is reported to be at the final stage of being adopted by the government.[23]

 

Information management

 

SMAC plans to install the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA), with GICHD support. In March 2023, GICHD information management advisors visited SMAC, to obtain a better understanding of its requirements before finalizing arrangements.[24]

 

Gender and diversity

 

SMAC does not have a gender and diversity policy in place. Yet it ensures that women, children, and ethnic or minority groups, are consulted during survey and community liaison activities. It also ensures equal access to employment in mine action for qualified women and men.[25]

 

Clearance operators

 

In 2022, Serbia listed six national commercial clearance operators. Five international operators consisted of two non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—IN Demining and Stop Mines—as well as three commercial operators (DOK-International Ltd, Eksploring Ltd, and Trotil Ltd).[26]

 

Land release: antipersonnel landmines

 

2022 land release overview: landmines[27]

Area cleared (km2)

Area reduced (km2)

Area canceled (km2)

Total area released (km2)

APM destroyed

0.17

0.00

0.00

0.17

0

Note: APM=antipersonnel mines.

 

A total of 0.17km² of suspected antipersonnel mine contaminated land was cleared during 2022. However, no mines were reported to have been destroyed. Serbia has a prioritization system for clearance in place, which prioritizes contaminated areas that directly affect local populations.

 

The remaining mine contamination is thought to be located on mountainous and hilly terrain in Bujanovac municipality. This contamination continues to have a severe socio-economic impact on local residents, who use the area for farming.[28]

 

Five-year landmine clearance: 2018­–2022[29]

Year

Area cleared (km2)

APM

destroyed

UXO

Destroyed*

2022

 0.17

0

158

2021

 0.29

9

4

2020

 0.27

1

1,586

2019

 0.60

22

15

2018

 0.21

29

1,347

*Serbia did not state whether any antivehicle mines were recorded under UXO destroyed in 2018–2022.

Note: APM=antipersonnel mines; UXO=unexploded ordnance.

 

In the five-year period from 2018–2022, Serbia cleared a total land area of 1.54km2, destroying 61 antipersonnel mines.

 

 

Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 clearance deadline

 

Summary of Article 5 clearance deadline extension requests[30]

Original deadline

Extension period

(no. of request)

Current deadline

Status

1 March 2014

5 years (1st)

4 years (2nd)

1 year and 10 months (3rd)

31 December 2024

Expected to request another extension

 

The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force for Serbia on 1 March 2004. Its original deadline under Article 5, to clear all antipersonnel mines from its territory, was 1 March 2014.

 

Serbia requested a five-year extension in 2013, which was granted by States Parties, amending the deadline to 1 March 2019. Serbia submitted a second extension request in 2018, asking for an additional four years. The request was granted, setting a new deadline of 1 March 2023.

 

Serbia has cited a number of factors which prevented it from meeting these deadlines, including unmapped areas where landmines were laid with no specific pattern, and the presence of mixed contamination with cluster munition remnants and other ERW. Climatic conditions have also prevented access for clearance at certain times of year, while the COVID-19 pandemic led to a reallocation of funds in 2020, resulting in a lower annual budget for clearance activities.[31]

 

In March 2022, Serbia requested a third, shorter extension, in order to complete non-technical survey of newly-discovered SHA in Bujanovac municipality. The request was granted by States Parties, setting a current deadline of 31 December 2024. Serbia estimated that survey may take approximately one year to complete, depending on the availability of donor funds.[32]

 

Land release: cluster munition remnants

 

2022 land release overview: CMR[33]

Area cleared (km2)

Area reduced (km2)

Area canceled (km2)

Total area released (km2)

CMR destroyed

0.28

0.00

0.00

0.28

2

Note: CMR=cluster munition remnants.

 

In 2022, Serbia cleared 0.28km2 of cluster munition contaminated land, destroying two cluster munition remnants.

 

Five-year cluster munition remnant clearance: 2018–2022[34]

Year

Area cleared (km²)

CMR destroyed

2022

0.28

2

2021

1.32

38

2020

0.29

7

2019

0.14

4

2018

N/A

N/A

Total

2.03

51

Note: CMR=cluster munition remnants; N/A=not applicable.

 

From 2018–2022, Serbia cleared 2.03km2 of cluster munition contaminated land, destroying 51 cluster munition remnants over the five-year period.

 

 

Risk education

 

Risk education operators

 

SMAC is the only organization that conducts risk education in Serbia. It has developed its own program for risk education, in accordance with IMAS.[35]

 

In 2022, SMAC conducted five explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) training courses for staff from public construction firms, on the dangers of ERW. Instructors teaching the course were all qualified in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) Level 1 and Level 2, and were approved by SMAC and the Ministry of Defense. A total of 64 individuals attended, across the five courses.[36]

 

Serbia stated in the Article 5 extension request submitted in 2022 that EORE forms part of the new workplan. The Ministry of Education will cooperate with SMAC to ensure that mine risk education is targeted at schoolchildren and vulnerable adults in Bujanovac municipality.[37]

 

Beneficiary data in 2022[38]

Operator

Men

Boys

Women

Girls

Total

SMAC

59

0

5

0

64

 

SMAC reported providing risk education to 64 recipients during 2022.

 

Target groups

 

SMAC targets communities in areas contaminated by landmines and cluster munition remnants. It was reported that men, women, and children were targeted, with information provided in both Serbian and Albanian.

 

SMAC also ran risk education training courses in 2022, for private companies whose staff may be at risk from ERW. Most of the employees that took part in these courses were reported to be younger men, due to their involvement in construction work.[39]

 

Delivery methods

 

In 2022, SMAC delivered risk education messages in Serbia through in-person training courses, community liaison visits, and social media.

 

 

Victim assistance

 

Management and coordination

 

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs coordinates victim assistance in Serbia. The Department for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities and the Department for the Veterans-Disabled Protection are responsible for assisting persons with disabilities.[40]

 

Needs assessment

 

A database run by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs recorded a total of 696 civilian war invalids as of the end of 2021, including those affected by ERW.[41]

 

A Working Group on Victim Assistance was established in 2015 in order to assess the needs of mine/ERW victims, address gaps in services, and coordinate with providers.[42] However, it was inactive in 2022 and has not met since 2015.[43]

 

Medical care and rehabilitation

 

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs supports the rehabilitation of mine/ERW survivors with physical disabilities. Survivors received rehabilitation services at the Special Hospital for Rehabilitation in Vrnjačka Banja in 2022, and at the Specialized Hospital for Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Prosthetics in Belgrade.[44]

 

Funding from ITF Enhancing Human Security enabled a mine survivor from Serbia to travel to the University Rehabilitation Institute of the Republic of Slovenia in 2022, to receive a modern and better-fitting prosthesis for his leg.[45]

 

Access to healthcare services remains an issue for persons with disabilities in Serbia.[46]

 

Socio-economic and psychosocial inclusion

 

All municipalities in Serbia have services to protect veterans and persons with disabilities.[47]

 

Legal frameworks or policies on disability inclusion

 

The legal framework for civilian war victims in Serbia is laid out in the 2006 constitution, which contains a provision on victims of war under the concept of social protection.[48] Serbia is also a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

 

A Law on the Rights of Civilian Invalids of War was adopted in 1996. However, a 2017 report found that the law was flawed due to the conditions that must be met to be a beneficiary.[49]

 

The Law on the Rights of Soldiers, Disabled Veterans, Civilian Disabled Veterans and Family Members entered into force on 1 January 2021. It aimed to enhance the rights of military war invalids and grant new rights to veterans of the 1990s conflicts and World War II. This law has also been criticized due to the limited number of individuals eligible to benefit.[50]

 

The law in Serbia prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in all areas including employment, education, transport, and access to buildings and health services. Yet persons with disabilities are not able to access these services on an equal basis with others, and the laws are often not enforced.[51]



[1] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[2] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[3] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[4] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[5] Serbia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2022), p. 15. See, Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Database.

[6] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, SMAC, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, 9 May 2023.

[7] Serbia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2013), p. 7.

[8] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[9] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[12] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[13] This total includes 260 landmine survivors registered in Montenegro. Presentation of Serbia and Montenegro, Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and Socio-Economic Reintegration, Mine Ban Treaty intersessional meetings, Geneva, 10 February 2004.

[14] ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Serbia: Impact,” updated 9 February 2021.

[15] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[17] Serbia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2022).

[18] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[19] Serbia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2022), p. 12.

[20] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023; and SMAC, “Participation of SMAC at Regional Workshop “Assessment of Needs and Planning of Improvement of Quality Management Capacities of National/State Mine Action Authorities” in Sarajevo,” 15 December 2022.

[22] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[23] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[24] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[25] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[26] Email from Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 16 June 2023.

[27] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[32] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[33] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[35] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[36] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[38] Response to Monitor questionnaire by Slađana Košutić, Senior Advisor for Planning, International Cooperation and European Integrations, SMAC, 9 May 2023.

[40] Serbia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2022), p. 15.

[43] ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Serbia: Impact,” updated 15 November 2021.

[44] ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Serbia: Impact,” updated 15 November 2021.

[45] ITF Enhancing Human Security, “Annual Report 2022,” March 2023, p. 59.

[46] European Commission (EC), “Commission Staff Working Document: Serbia 2022 Report,” 12 October 2022, p. 103.

[47] Serbia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2022).

[50] Milica Stojanovic, “Serbia Adopts Law Boosting Disabled Veterans’ Rights,” Balkan Insight, 29 February 2020.

[51] EC, “Commission Staff Working Document: Serbia 2022 Report,” 12 October 2022, p. 38.