Advancing the Capacities of the Ministry of Interior in the Field of Custody Chain, Crime Scene Investigations and the Ballistic Laboratory in the Field of Operations and Investigations in Trafficking of Firearms and Firearms Criminality

The Roadmap project “Advancing the Capacities of the Ministry of Interior in the Field of Custody Chain, Crime Scene Investigations and the Ballistic Laboratory in the Field of Operations and Investigations in Trafficking of Firearms and Firearms Criminality” increased the capacities of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia in the entire investigative cycle. It established robust chain of custody procedures including systems that developed open case file data, ensured that laboratory handling and data management around exhibits and evidence complied with European standards and sped up ballistic analysis.

The project contributed to Roadmap Goals 1, 2, 3 and 5.

Key results achieved:

  • The sub-project improved and standardized crime scene investigations. It upgraded the regulatory framework for the National Forensic Center (NFC) through the development of four standard operating procedures (SOPs) for: (1) chain of custody in law enforcement, (2) crime scene investigation; (3) packaging and tagging of evidence; (4) development of an open case file for ballistic examination. The SOPs have been approved by the NFC.
  • It increased the capacity of the crime scene investigation (CSI) units through specialized training and equipment, in line with the requirements for the ISO 17020 standard accreditation of CSI units. 60 participants from the forensic lines of work took part in a training on crime scene investigations and chain of custody, increasing their knowledge and understanding of standardization of the ballistic terminology, as used by the forensic scientific and expert community, and communication with other stakeholders involved in criminal procedures, such as prosecutors, courts, forensic medicine institutes, etc. Also, 60 participants from the CSI units across Serbia increased their knowledge about the accreditation of the CSI infrastructure according to ISO/IEC 17020. The project procured and installed specialized SALW-related equipment for the CSI line of work to further increase the efficiency of the CSI units, and the quality of their work. The equipment consisted or 37 CSI kits, 3 forensic lights and 3D scanners with accompanying IT sets, which was also followed by training sessions on their correct usage.
  • To improve the capacities of the CSI units to collect evidence and conduct criminal investigations in reported cases of domestic violence, the project developed an analysis on criminal investigations in reported cases of domestic violence. The analysis consisted of four interrelated components: 1) overview of the procedure of the police-related to collection of evidence and analysis of possible gaps and challenges related to domestic violence cases; 2) examination and analysis of the current practice of the police in collection of evidence related to domestic violence cases, particularly in the cases in which firearms was present/misused; 3) interviews with the police officers responsible for crime scene investigation; 4) findings on the shortcomings related to procedures and practice. Once this was completed, the project supported the preparation of the Instruction (guidelines) regarding the appropriate procedures in resolving criminal offences in the field of domestic violence, which was approved by NFC. The Instruction was shared with experts from law enforcement agencies dealing with the issue of prevention, suppression and prosecution of domestic violence, as well as the Prosecutor's office and medical institutions and teams which are working together with CSI teams on the crime scene.
  • The functions of the ballistic laboratory were improved through an improved information management system, reception and storage of ballistic evidence, and ballistic testing. The project supported the central level ballistic laboratory with the installation of a Laboratory Inventory Management System (LIMS) and an Open Case File (OCF) room and database were established and equipped. The laboratory was also provided with necessary equipment to support the use of the LIMS, to generally increase the efficiency of work of the ballistic experts in the laboratory, and to ensure the security of the lab. To complement the installation of the water tank for test firing that was provided by the sub-project, and to further support the experts who are daily using the tank, a dedicated SOP was developed, and specialized equipment and training was provided to ensure the safety of all staff members when handling, inspecting and testing firearms and ammunition. Lastly, the project completely equipped the gunsmith rooms established in the central ballistic lab.

Budget: US$958,284

Implementing period: October 2019 – November 2021

Reduce Risk - Increase Safety – Towards Ending SALW Misuse in Domestic Violence Context

The Roadmap project “Reduce risk-Increase safety–Towards ending SALW misuse in domestic violence context” supported the reduction of the misuse of firearms in the context of violence against women, domestic violence (DV) and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV) by improving practices and procedures related to criminal justice response to SALW misuse. It set up the basis for evidence-based policy making, increased the awareness among general population on the dangers of illicit SALW possession and misuse, and developed knowledge packages for risk reduction of firearms misuse.

The project contributed to Roadmap Goals 2 and 4.

Key results achieved:

  • To support evidence-based and gender-responsive policy making, a series of analyses were developed assessing the impact of firearms misuse on GBV.[1] These included examination of the legal framework, femicides involving firearms, and institutional response, with a focus on judicial practice and response of the criminal justice system related to misuse of firearms in cases of domestic violence. All relevant stakeholders, both public institutions and non-governmental organizations, actively participated in knowledge development and dissemination. These knowledge products played a crucial role in shaping new legal and strategic documents, and in the design of training programs for first-line responders.
  • The project contributed to an enhanced access to continuous training for judiciary, police and other professionals on firearms misuse in the context of DV, through comprehensive e-learning. It developed three modules for the existing MoI e-training platform on recognizing, preventing, assessing and reducing the risk of firearm use in DV. Also, the e-training to improve multi-agency case management for increased safety of victims and reduced risk of firearm violence in the DV context was developed and launched  by the national Judicial Academy. In cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the project developed and published guidelines for prosecutors, judges and multi-agency groups for cooperation and coordination on the collection of evidence and ensuring adequate protection and prosecution of cases of DV. In addition to this, the project’s risk assessment checklist and proposed measures to prevent the risk of firearms misuse for violence, were utilized in the police SOP for domestic violence cases, especially those involving firearms misuse, developed and accepted by MoI.  
  • The project explored the role of the healthcare system in the prevention of firearm misuse in DV. A policy paper was thus developed, mapping the relationship between DVe, SALW misuse and public health, as a foundation for short- and long-term actions. Related insights served as a basis for a new project[2] that developed a set of recommended, implementable and sustainable actions to strengthen the healthcare system’s role in the prevention of firearms misuse for domestic violence and contributed to a more in-depth understanding of the various dimensions (including gender) of suicide by firearms.
  • The project contributed to deconstructing gender stereotypes and increased public awareness on the dangers of firearms misuse in the context of GBV, including improved educational and preventive media reporting. It organized joint learning sessions of media, CSOs and institutions to discuss different models for establishing a multi-agency femicide review and to present the findings of the analysis of cases of femicides committed with firearms. In line with the communication strategy developed by the group “Journalists against Violence”, the project implemented two social media campaigns on the dangers and consequences of firearms misuse, which followed up on the findings of the analysis of cases of femicides committed with firearms. These activities led to remarkable media coverage and media interest in firearms misuse and domestic violence.
  • To support media in educational and preventative reporting, the project developed Guidelines for ethical and gender-sensitive media reporting on DV committed with firearms, a training module for the media on gender-sensitive media reporting on DV committed with firearms, and an analysis of media reporting on SALW and DV for the first half of 2021 that helps monitor the quality of media reporting on the cases of DV committed with firearms. To further raise awareness and improve availability of relevant information to the wider public, the project developed an informative guide for firearms license applicants and their family members on key facts on DV and firearms misuse, with information on the referral pathways for survivors of domestic violence. This guide followed an extensive consultation process with a wide range of institutional and non-governmental stakeholders.
  • A critical result of the project is the integration of firearms-enabled violence in the new strategy for combating GBV in Serbia for 2021-2025, adopted in spring 2021. At the invitation of the Government of Serbia, the project contributed to the development of this strategy taking stock of the findings of its knowledge products. Key aspects related to police procedures were integrated in the police SOP for DV cases, and the SOP is utilized regionally to inform police checklists regarding response to DV, developed in the Western Balkan region through UNDP SEESAC activities. Developed online trainings ensure sustainable access of professionals to knowledge on firearms misuse prevention.

Budget: US$294,462

Implementing period: September 2019 – December 2021

[1] 1) The in-depth analysis of the procedures and practices related to the SALW license denial, removal and revocation in the context of domestic violence, including existing procedures and practices related to the domestic violence committed by military and police officers. 2) The analysis of administrative data collection practices on the misuse of SALW in domestic and intimate partner violence. 3) A methodology and analysis of data on SALW and domestic violence in the period 2017-2020. 4) An analysis of cases of femicides committed with firearms.
[2] Implemented in the period September 2022-March 2023 through the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Multi-Partner Trust Fund.