Regional meeting on Special Investigative Measures applicable to Firearms Offences in the Western Balkans 

25-26 May 2022, Belgrade, Serbia: The UNODC Global Firearms Programme (GFP) organized a regional meeting on Special Investigative Measures (SIMs), applicable to firearms offences. The event gathered Prosecutors, and representatives from the Ministries of Interior from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The event itself further promoted the GFP’s Community of Practitioners as a platform for continuous evaluation of the criminal procedure, legislation, and practice from the perspective of the practitioners and their day-to-day activities in the respective jurisdictions. In the opening session, UNODC GFP focused the discussion on how the internationalization and increasing sophistication of crime requires law enforcement, prosecutors, and other practitioners to call upon a growing range of tools.

It was agreed that authorities in the Western Balkans need to use special investigative measures to detect crimes, investigate and apprehend suspects. While techniques such as interception of telecommunications, surveillance and undercover operations are widely recognized as cross-border investigative measures in the region, countries may have different legal requirements for using these tools. Therefore, regional events like this can help practitioners to increase their knowledge of the subject matter and foster bilateral and regional cooperation.

The first day of the event focused on cataloguing the SIMs in the Criminal Procedure Codes of the Western Balkans, while the discussions ranged from the scope of applicability and shortfalls to the legislative constraints and the unexploited potential of some measures. The covert supervision of communication, covert surveillance, recording as well as simulated deals were all discussed regarding the procedural issues, the admissibility of the collected evidence and the process of assessing the arguments of the defense. 

The second day started with the presentation of the special measures and techniques used by the French authorities, focusing on the internet and electronic communications where the use of expensive hi-tech tools is becoming a necessity since the criminals are trying to make use of the available technology to their advantage.

All of these impacts the modern society we live in and following the trends and new methods is the only way to respond effectively to the organized crime groups in the Western Balkans. Therefore, events like this are supporting the sharing of knowledge and disseminating good practices directly to the practitioners and by the practitioners. At the conclusion of the regional meeting, the participants noted that UNODC GFP should remain focused on the improved application of SIMs in domestic and cross-border firearms investigations by further developing investigative tools and knowledge products for the practitioners dealing with firearms-related cases.

This activity is implemented with the financial support provided by Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, and Norway through the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Trust Fund and supported by the European Union.

This activity contributes to SDG 16, particularly Target 16.4 to significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime.