Call for Kosovo organ theft inquiry

Council of Europe demands probe into claims that Kosovo Liberation Army took part in organ trafficking and other crimes.

hashim thaci
Hashim Thaci has been accused of heading a mafia-like crime ring during the late 1990s [AFP]

The Council of Europe has demanded a “serious investigation” into allegations that Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighters were involved in organ trafficking and other crimes in the late 1990s.

The organisation, which has a particular emphasis on human rights, endorsed a report on Tuesday by Dick Marty, its investigator, which linked a faction of the KLA, known as the Drenica Group, to organised crime.

The group was led by Hashim Thaci, the Kosovo prime minister and one of the KLA’s most prominent leaders during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

Thaci has previously hit back in several interviews denying the allegations and vowing to sue Marty for libel.

Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee said: “The task now falls to the European Union team in Kosovo to investigate further.

“But given that a number of Western countries, including the US, have now formally recognised Kosovo it’s an open question whether there’s the political will to pursue Hashim Thaci.”

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008.

‘Inhuman treatment’

The 27-page report, which was published last month, alleges that the Drenica Group engaged in crimes including organ trafficking, drug smuggling and assassinations.

The report says the organs were removed from Serb prisoners in the aftermath of the Kosovo war. 

The Council of Europe’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.

The Strasbourg-based organisation adopted the resolution by 169 votes.

“We are ready to face and we as Kosovo want to face [the report],” Jakup Krasniqi, Kosovo’s acting president, said on Tuesday.

“We are convinced that this cannot be proven in any way.”

Krasniqi said Kosovo wanted “promptness” in a European investigation of the “pretencions” raised in the report.

“We are interested in the truth about that, whatever it is,” he said. “Even if it is painful, let us know it.”

NATO report

A separate report leaked on Tuesday also accuses Thaci of being a major crime boss in Kosovo.

NATO intelligence reports obtained by the Guardian, a British newspaper, showed that Western powers saw Thaci as one of Kosovo’s “biggest fish” in organised crime.

The Guardian said the documents, produced by KFOR, Nato’s peace-keeping force in Kosovo, also described a senior aide to Thaci as having ties to the Albanian mafia.

Xhavit Haliti, a former head of logistics for the KLA and now a senior politician, is said to be the “power behind Thaci” and “highly involved in prostitution, weapons and drugs smuggling”.

A government spokesman dismissed the allegations in the documents, saying they were “based on hearsay and intentional false Serbian intelligence”.

NATO has said it will investigate the document.

“KFOR has initiated an internal investigation about the origin of this document and other questions related to it,” spokesman captain Hans Dieter Wichter told the AFP news agency.

The Guardian has not said how the secret military cables had been leaked and its report did not elaborate in detail on accusations against Thaci contained in the cables.

Source: News Agencies