A report that accuses Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of links to organized crime is being debated today by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The report, prepared by Swiss rapporteur Dick Marty and unveiled last month, 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."
'Democratic Future of Europe' At Stake
Addressing today’s PACE session in Strasbourg, Marty said the “democratic future of Europe would be compromised if we tolerate equivocal links between politics and organized crime." He said the report was not meant as a slight against the people of Kosovo.
The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) led a 1998-99 guerrilla war against forces loyal to the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic during which 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 that 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 "organs were removed from some prisoners" at a clinic near Fushe-Kruje, Albania.
Organs Sold To Private Clinics
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.
Previous investigations of allegations of organ trafficking from the war in Kosovo have ended without prosecutions.
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 U.S. 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.
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 criminal group.
The newspaper did not say how the secret military cables had been leaked and did not elaborate in detail on accusations contained in the cables.
The paper quoted NATO as saying it had instigated an "internal investigation" into the leaked documents.
It also quoted a Kosovo government spokesman as dismissing the allegations in the documents.
written by Antoine Blue, with agency reports