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Council of Europe endorses Kosovo organs report

25 January 2011, 18:30 CET
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(STRASBOURG) - The Council of Europe on Tuesday endorsed a report linking Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci with organised crime and organ trafficking and demanded a "serious investigation" into the allegations.

The council called on Albania and Kosovo authorities to "initiate a serious and independent investigation" of alleged trafficking of organs taken from bodies of dead prisoners held by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Albania in the 1990s.

The council's parliamentary assembly also called for a probe into the "existence of secret detention centres and inhuman treatment" against Serb and Albanian prisoners from Kosovo, in a resolution adopted by 169 votes.

Eight lawmakers voted against the measure and another 14 abstained.

The move comes amid the emergence of NATO intelligence reports showing Western powers have long suspected Thaci's post-war administration of having criminal ties.

According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, the NATO papers identify Thaci as one of "the biggest fish" in organised crime in Kosovo, along with a senior aide, Xhavit Haliti, who has ties to the Albanian mafia.

A NATO spokesman in Pristina refused on Tuesday to comment on the authenticity of the documents cited in the Guardian.

Authored by the Council of Europe's special rapporteur on human rights, Dick Marty, 27-page report outlines alleged abductions, disappearances, executions, organ trafficking and other serious crimes coordinated by Thaci and former leaders of the KLA who are now leading Kosovo politicians.

As he presented his findings to the council's lawmakers, Marty insisted his controversial dossier was not a slight on the people of Kosovo and defended its publication.

"The victims were Serbs, whom the Kosovar Albanians may have regarded as traitors or members of rival groups, but who to us are above all simply human beings," Marty wrote.

The rapporteur specifically wrote that a group linked to Thaci killed Serb prisoners held in special detention camps in Albania to extract organs and sell them on the international black market.

In his address in Strasbourg, Marty said he had never claimed Thaci was directly involved in organ-trafficking but added that "it is hard to believe that he never heard anything being said."

Thaci, who was one of the KLA's most prominent leaders, has hit back in several interviews denying the allegations and vowing to sue Marty for libel.

While Kosovo has exercised increasing autonomy in the last few years, declaring its independence in 2008, it was largely run by Western powers in the immediate aftermath of the NATO war against its former Serbian rulers in 1999.

The Swiss senator, known for a previous report on secret CIA detention centres in Europe, says the international organisations which have been in place in Kosovo since 1999 had effectively turned a blind eye to the claims.

"The international organisations in place in Kosovo favoured a pragmatic political approach, taking the view that they needed to promote short-term stability at any price, thereby sacrificing some important principles of justice," his report said.

"Insufficient investigation has been carried out into the connection of KLA members with war crimes committed against Serbians and Albanian Kosovars."

Marty wants the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) which has the authority to carry out sensitive investigations in Kosovo "shine a light" on the trafficking accusations.

According to Serb human rights groups, some 500 Serbs and Roma and 1,400 ethnic Albanians are still reported as missing following the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

The Kosovo conflict left around 10,000 people dead before NATO forces intervened.

Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo - Council of Europe Assembly report

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