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PACE Endorses Report On Kosovo Organ-Trafficking, Accusing PM Thaci Of Crimes

  • RFE/RL

An woman walks past a wall in Pristina on January 25 of photos depicting people missing since the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo.

An woman walks past a wall in Pristina on January 25 of photos depicting people missing since the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to adopt a resolution calling for international and local investigations into illicit organ trafficking activities implicating Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

The resolution was based on a report unveiled last month following a two-year investigation by Swiss rapporteur Dick Marty.

The report accuses former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army -- including Thaci -- of organizing organ trafficking during and after the war between Kosovo guerrillas and Serbian forces in the late 1990s.

The Kosovo government has rejected the report as baseless and "slanderous."

Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg, Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said it was important to uncover the truth about the allegations.

"Nothing can be put under the carpet nowadays, because everything will come to the surface sooner or later and therefore it's so important that these things are investigated by the right authorities," Jagland said.

The parliamentarians said the "appalling crimes committed by Serbian forces" had given rise to the assumption that it was invariably one side which was the perpetrator of crimes and the other side the victim.

"The reality is less clear-cut and more complex," the resolution reads. "There cannot be one justice for the winners and another for the losers."

The resolution calls on the Albanian authorities and Kosovo administration to "co-operate unreservedly" with EULEX, the EU mission in Kosovo, or any other international body mandated to find out the truth about crimes linked to the conflict in Kosovo.

The assembly also called for EULEX to be given a clear mandate, the resources, and political support it needed to carry out its role.

In particular, the resolution emphasized the need for effective witness-protection programs.

Landmark Finding

Previous investigations on allegations of organ-trafficking from the war in Kosovo have ended without prosecutions.

Addressing the assembly session earlier in the day, Marty insisted that his findings were not against the Kosovar people.

Dick Marty, in charge of the Council of Europe report on organ trafficking in Kosovo, at the January 25 debate in Strasbourg
"This report is not a report against the Kosovar people, nor against the Albanian people," Marty said. "And it doesn't represent a defense plea for Serbia."

The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) led a 1998-99 guerrilla war against forces loyal to the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic during which a NATO military intervention resulted in Belgrade losing control of the territory.

The conflict left around 13,000 people dead and ended with the establishment of a UN administration over the territory. Some 1,900 people are still unaccounted for in connection with the conflict.

Marty's report suggests current Prime Minister Thaci, the wartime political leader of the ethnic Albanian guerilla group, was one of the key players in drug and organ trafficking.

He describes how ethnic Serbs and Albanian Kosovars who opposed the UCK had been secretly imprisoned by the group in northern Albania "and were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, before ultimately disappearing."

In the wake of the conflict, and before international forces had time to reestablish order in Kosovo, Marty said that "organs were removed from some prisoners" at a clinic near Fushe-Kruje, Albania.

The organs were then shipped out of Albania and sold to private clinics for transplantation as part of the international black market for organs.

According to Marty, those activities have "continued, albeit in other forms, until today."

The report does not name its sources or the number of people who were killed in the process.

'Biggest Fish'

Marty, a former prosecutor in Switzerland, is best known for a 2007 probe on behalf of the Council of Europe that accused 14 European governments of allowing the CIA to run secret prisons and conduct rendition flights from 2002 to 2005.

The PACE debate comes as "The Guardian," citing leaked NATO military documents, said Western powers considered Thaci one of the "biggest fish" in Kosovo's organized crime.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (file photo)
The documents were produced "around 2004" -- some four years before Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 -- by KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force responsible for security in Kosovo.

Describing him as "the power behind Hashim Thaci," one report states that legislator Xhavit Haliti has strong ties with the Albanian mafia and Kosovo's secret service.

Marty's report also includes Haliti among members of Thaci's alleged criminal group.

The newspaper did not say how the secret military cables had been leaked, nor did it elaborate in detail accusations contained in the cables.

The spokesman for NATO in Kosovo, Captain Hans Wichter, said the force had "initiated an internal investigation about the origin of this document."

It also quoted a Kosovo government spokesman as dismissing the allegations in the documents.

with agency reports