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EU must probe ex-Kosovo guerrilla leaders: watchdog

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(PRISTINA) - The European justice mission in Kosovo should appoint a top independent prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes by ex-leaders of the Kosovo guerrilla, a human rights watchdog urged Wednesday.

"The European Union rule-of-law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) should appoint an independent, high-level prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes by former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in the press release received by AFP.

Allegations of abductions, disappearances, executions, organ trafficking, and other serious crimes coordinated by men who are now leading Kosovo politicians were presented in a December 2010 report for the Council of Europe prepared by Swiss senator Dick Marty.

The Council of Europe report, approved unanimously by the legal affairs and human rights committee, alleges that a group of former KLA members, including the outgoing Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, are responsible for abductions, beatings, summary executions and, in some cases, the forced removal of human organs on Albanian territory after the Kosovo war ended on June 12, 1999.

The report describes the victims as mostly Serbs and Roma from Kosovo but also ethnic Albanians suspected of collaboration with the Serbian government before or during the war, or members of rival armed groups.

"The EU mission in Kosovo will face great obstacles to conducting a credible investigation into these serious allegations," HRW's Lotte Leicht, was quoted as saying.

"It is crucial to have an independent senior prosecutor, an effective witness protection program - including the ability to relocate witnesses outside the Balkans - and the security required for such a delicate investigation," the watchdog warned.

HRW also called on the US and the European Union to press the government of Serbia to cooperate fully with the investigation.

"While supporting a proper EULEX investigation into alleged KLA crimes, the US and European governments should put pressure on Serbia to come clean on the fate of the missing, including bodies that were moved, destroyed, or reburied in Serbia," Leicht said.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and despite Serbia's objections it is recognised by 72 countries.

EU launched the same year the 3,000-strong EULEX mission to oversee justice in the new country.

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