Kosovo PM fumes at Western plan to investigate organ harvesting

Hashim Thaci

Hashim Thaci [Wikimedia]

Kosovo’s premier has summoned parliament to vote on creating an EU-backed special court to try ethnic Albanian ex-guerrillas accused of harvesting organs from murdered Serbs during the Balkan state’s 1990s war, but criticised the plan as an insult.

The move stems from a 2011 report by Council of Europe rapporteur, Dick Marty, alleging that Kosovo Albanian guerrillas fighting a war of independence from Serbia had smuggled the bodies of Serbs into Albania and removed their organs for sale [read more].

“This issue is completely unfair and an insult for the state of Kosovo,” Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi?, who was the political chief of the old Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), said yesterday (17 April).

Thaçi said on Thursday that the assembly “should take a decision”, signalling that the 120-seat parliament would have to vote on the new court possibly next week.

Political sources say Western diplomats have been pressing the Kosovo government to accept the tribunal and endorse it via a parliamentary vote before the assembly dissolves in a few weeks, for a general election to be held by September.

US and EU officials have warned Kosovo leaders that if they do not set up the court, then the organs case will be referred to the UN Security Council.

Thaçi has rejected Marty’s accusations as an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the KLA, which won NATO air support in 1999, to help drive out Serbian security forces trying to crush the uprising in ethnic Albanian majority Kosovo.

Efforts to investigate alleged war crimes by guerrillas have run up against widespread intimidation in a small country where clan loyalties run deep and former KLA rebels are lionised.

The new court will operate under Kosovo law but most of its work will be done abroad, possibly in the Netherlands, in help protect witnesses from attack or intimidation. Both prosecutors and judges will be foreign citizens.

The allegations are being investigated by US prosecutor John Clint Williamson on behalf of the EU, which has a mission in Kosovo overseeing major war crimes and corruption cases. Williamson is expected to wrap up his work within months.

An estimated 10,000 people died during the 1998-99 war, the great majority of them ethnic Albanians. About 1,700 people are still missing from the conflict. 

  A Council of Europe draft report alleging that Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi is a Mafia-style boss spelled out a truth that diplomats privately acknowledge: the West in Kosovo has favoured stability over justice.

The author of the draft report is Dick Marty, a Swiss Liberal Democrat, who gained notoriety as Council of Europe rapporteur on US rendition flights and secret prisons, including in Europe.

Marty's report said Thaçi served as a mafia-like crime boss during the war, leading a group that committed assassinations, beatings, trafficking in organs and drugs and other crimes. Reportedly, the organ-trafficking ring operated also in Albania, when forced removal of organs was taking place.

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