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Yugoslavia: Organization for Internal Security
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Internal Security > Organization for Internal Security


The Council for the Protection of the Constitutional Order was the highest government organization responsible for internal security matters. Its chairman was the president of the collective State Presidency, and its membership included the federal secretary for internal affairs, the federal secretary for national defense, and other military, party, and civilian officials. Under the Constitution, the State Presidency has the authority to order the use of the armed forces in peacetime to ensure internal security. It can suspend any provision in the Constitution if necessary for defense and security during war or imminent danger of war.

Considerable police and paramilitary power was concentrated in the Federal Secretariat for Internal Affairs, which supervised the work of subordinate secretariats for internal affairs in the republics and autonomous provinces. Besides the SDB, the national secretariat included the Office of the Federal Public Prosecutor, who in turn controlled public prosecutors in the republics.

The SDB was responsible for identifying and neutralizing subversive elements regarded as threats to the constitutional order and the socialist self-management system. Both violent groups and peaceful dissidents were included in this broad category. Plainclothes SDB agents investigated and monitored such groups and infiltrated their ranks. One of the SDB's most effective weapons was the concept of social self-protection. It was the equivalent of the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) in internal security matters. Article 173 of the Constitution declared the duty of all citizens to participate in social selfprotection by reporting immediately to the SDB their knowledge of "hostile activities" including ordinary crime, political offenses, and terrorism.

The Federal Secretariat for Internal Affairs also controlled a federal paramilitary force, the People's Militia, which numbered more than 15,000 troops. This force operated numerous BOV-M armored vehicles equipped with machine guns, water cannons, smoke and tear gas launchers for crowd control and riot situations, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters. These internal security troops were well paid, heavily indoctrinated, experienced, and reliable. They could be deployed in times of political unrest or disorder when the local police were expected to side with the populace against federal authorities. The People's Militia provided security for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. The federal secretariat also controlled 15,000 troops in border guard units. In coastal areas, the border guards operated sixteen patrol boats in 1990.

The secretariats for internal affairs in the republics and autonomous provinces controlled the militia (regular police) forces in their territory. In 1990 there were an estimated 40,000 professional law enforcement officers. They were responsible for maintaining government communications, issuing travel documents to citizens, and registering foreign residents. The average militia officer was male, twenty-two years of age, and had completed his secondary education in special schools operated by the federal secretariat for internal affairs. Select militia officers were later sent for a university education.

The militia were organized into stations and substations in larger cities. They were involved in routine law enforcement as well as more sensitive cases involving ethnic groups. Cases ranged from physical attacks and harassment to homicide. In Pristina, site of a major university and a center of Albanian ethnic dissidence, every confrontation with authority had the potential to erupt into large disturbances between ethnic communities. In 1990 that city had seven militia stations and four substations, serving a population of 400,000.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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