Today, the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia disposed of 18,009 pieces of confiscated Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in an event taking place within the framework of the EU funded South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) project. The objective of the destruction event was to increase security and diminish the risk of proliferation by significantly reducing the number of surplus weapons in storages and to highlight the results of the law enforcement activities that the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia has achieved in the past few years.
The event was inaugurated by H.E. Nebojša Stefanović – Minister of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Mr. Oskar Benedikt – Chargé d’Affaires of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, and Ms. Karla Hershey – UNDP Resident Representative, who addressed the gathered representatives of the national institutions and diplomatic corps.
H.E. Nebojša Stefanović – Ministrer of Interior of the Republic of Serbia said: “Today more than 18,000 firearms were destroyed in a joint effort by the Ministry of Interior, SEESAC and the EU Delegation. This is important as it will contribute to the increased safety of our country. Some of the destroyed firearms represent illegal weapons confiscated by the police and others were collected through the current legalization campaign. I would like to call all citizens to use the opportunity and surrender their illegal weapons to the police because by doing so many criminal acts could be prevented.”
Mr. Oskar Benedikt – Chargé d’Affaires of the EU Delegation in Serbia stressed:
“The EU has as a priority to help Serbia combat illicit flows of small arms and light weapons. I would like to commend the efforts of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia and encourage the authorities to take all possible steps to continue to remove illegal firearms from the public domain and to prevent easy access to illicit firearms in Serbia and beyond. The EU is currently partnering with SEESAC through the EU Council Decision in Support of SEESAC Disarmament and Arms Control Activities in South East Europe and I am glad to say that this support will continue.”
Addressing the audience, Ms. Karla Hershey – UNDP Resident Representative highlighted:
„This event clearly demonstrates Serbia’s commitment to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. There is a clear understanding that there is no sustainable development without peace, and effective and accountable institutions. SALW proliferation has adverse effects on safety and wellbeing of both women and men. Firearms are often misused in domestic violence, and the high share of women murdered with firearms reflects the high lethality of firearms in this context. Every third woman murdered in the context of domestic violence was killed with a firearm.”
Today’s event took place within the ongoing firearms amnesty the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia is conducting. With a destruction of over 18,000 pieces of firearms, Serbian authorities are reinforcing the message about the danger uncontrolled firearms pose to the safety of individuals, security of the society, and stability of the region. Since 2002, SEESAC assisted the authorities in the region of South East Europe to destroy over 320,000 pieces of SALW in similar disposal activities.
Since the beginning of this year, with the support of the EU, SEESAC coordinated similar destruction events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and in Kosovo* thus assisting the authorities in the region in sending a clear message on the importance of raising awareness and acting against the threat posed by excess, poorly secured and illegal firearms in South East Europe.
To combat illicit flows of SALW, the EU has been working with SEESAC on arms control in South East Europe through different Council Decisions implemented over the past 15 years.
Under the EU Council Decision (CFSP) 2016/2356, the EU is allocating EUR 6,508,136 to SEESAC in order to support authorities in the region and their activities devoted to countering misuse and trafficking of illicit firearms and ammunition.
As part of the overall SEESAC Arms Control portfolio, a comprehensive set of activities was developed to assist the authorities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Kosovo*, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in SALW control activities aimed at combating illicit accumulation and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition. In the Republic of Serbia for example, SEESAC has been focusing on:
- Security infrastructure upgrade of SALW Storage location near Belgrade, and security infrastructure upgrade of one evidence room in Belgrade;
- Support to the destruction of surplus firearms and ammunition, procurement of equipment and training support for the investigative capacities of the Police Directorate;
- Assistance to the Serbian authorities in awareness raising about the dangers of illegal and uncontrolled SALW proliferation;
- Support for participation of representatives of Serbia in regional SALW control processes enabling networking, information sharing and knowledge exchange.
* References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).