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New prosecutor for Kosovo organ trafficking probe

11 December 2014, 19:57 CET
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(BRUSSELS) - The EU named a new prosecutor on Thursday to investigate possible crimes against humanity, including murder and organ trafficking, by several leaders of Kosovo's 1990s guerrilla army, some of them now senior officials.

Lawyer David Schwendiman succeeds fellow US national, Clint Williamson, a diplomat and prosecutor who headed the Special Investigative Task Force into events after Kosovo's 1998-1999 war.

In a statement, the EU's diplomacy arm said Schwendiman had "extensive experience in dealing with the legal, political and practical issues in both international and domestic criminal prosecutions."

This included a stint in 2006 as a war crimes prosecutor in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Working out of heavily guarded offices in Brussels, a team of 25 prosecutors and investigators have probed allegations involving the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) that fought against Serb security forces.

After interviewing hundreds of witnesses and thumbing through thousands of pages on events that took place 15 years ago, the team in July said they were in position to indict several suspects, without naming them.

But before bringing suspects to trial, Kosovo and the European Union need to agree on setting up a special court to hear the cases -- hopefully next year.

In 2010, an explosive report alleged that senior KLA commanders -- including former Kosovo Premier Hashim Thaci -- removed organs from Serb and other prisoners of war and sold them on the black market.

The appointment of the new prosecutor comes in the same week as Kosovo lawmakers backed a new coalition government led by veteran politician Isa Mustafa, ending a six-month political crisis in the former Serbian province.

The still powerful Thaci, who has ruled Kosovo since it unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008, will be foreign minister as well as holding a deputy prime minister's post.

Although Thaci's centre-left Democratic Party of Kosovo came first in the June 8 vote, it was unable to form a ruling coalition.

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