Days after Kosovo's current Prime Minister Hasim Thaci's party emerged the front-runner in a general election, a draft report
by a European investigator has accused Thaci and former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army of organizing organ trafficking after the conflict with Serbian security forces ended in 1999.
The report by Council of Europe special rapporteur Dick Marty suggests Thaci, the wartime political leader of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla group, was one of the key players in the traffic of prisoners' organs.
In its first reaction, Kosovo's government dismissed the report as "slanderous," threatened "all legal and political actions and measures" against Marty, and urged members of the Council of Europe to reject the report.
The statement said the report aimed to "shame" Thaci after the December 12 parliamentary elections -- Kosovo's first since declaring independence from Serbia in 2008 -- in which his party won the most votes.
"This report is a signal that it is time that the entire civilized world stops turning its eyes away from the horrible realities in Kosovo," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told a news conference in Moscow. "This report shows what Kosovo is like today, who its leaders are.
"And we all should come together in finding a solution to [Kosovo] issue."
Speaking at the same press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that, if confirmed, the allegations enclosed in Marty's report would "constitute a crime against humanity" and urged that this report "not remain a closed document."
In Belgrade, where Thaci was sentenced in absentia as a terrorist in 1997, a spokesman for the war crimes prosecutor's office, Bruno Vekaric, said Marty's report was a "victory" for Serbia.Accusations
The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) led a 1998-99 guerrilla war against forces loyal to late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. NATO's military intervention resulted in Belgrade losing control of the territory.
The conflict left around 13,000 people dead and ended with the establishing of a UN administration over the territory. Around 1,900 missing are still unaccounted for in connection with the conflict.
In his report, Marty wrote that civilians had been secretly imprisoned by the UCK 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, "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 in organs.
According to Marty, those activities have "continued, albeit in other forms, until today."
Marty said his findings were based on testimonies of UCK "insider sources" such as drivers, bodyguards involved in logistical and practical tasks, as well as "organizers" or the ringleaders behind the organ trade.
The report does not name the sources or the number of people who were killed in the process.
Marty also cited confidential reports over more than a decade saying that Thaci and others in his group had control over drug trafficking.
Marty said Thaci was "the boss" of the Drenica Group within the UCK, a "small but inestimably powerful group of [UCK] personalities" who took control of organized crime in the region from at least 1998.
Marty said the diplomatic and political support Western powers gave Thaci during the talks following the Kosovo conflict "bestowed upon Thaci, not least in his own mind, a sense of being 'untouchable.'"
Marty wrote that Thaci also operated with the help of the Albanian government, secret services, and mafia.Investigation And Effects
During his two-year investigation, Marty visited the region, including Belgrade, Tirana, and Pristina, where he met governmental officials, prosecutors, national parliamentary delegations, and officials of various international institutions represented in Pristina, as well as nongovernmental organizations.
The Council of Europe's press office told RFE/RL that Marty would not be talking about his report until he presents it to the committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Paris on December 16. Two Kosovar legislators have been invited to attend the meeting.
If adopted, the report will go before the Parliamentary Assembly, of which Marty is a member, on January 25.
Marty's investigation stemmed from a 2008 book by Carla Del Ponte, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Marty, a former prosecutor in Switzerland, is known internationally 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.
written by Antoine Blua, with agency reports