Strategy International, May 07, 2011

1. Introduction

The issue of allegedly human rights violations committed by Kosovo Albanians during and after the Kosovo War is not really new. What is new however, are the evidence thrown on the table at the Council of Europe last January. Allegations have been aired for the past seven years but it was not until recently that some serious steps were made forward, deep into this case. The issue was the key topic on the agenda of the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) winter plenary session (24-28 January 2011). Nearly three years ago, Carla Del Ponte, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), raised the issue when her highly controversial book The Hunt went public. Del Ponte accused Kosovo Albanians of organ trafficking after illicitly removed from kidnapped Serbs after the 1999 Kosovo War. But not well established accusations were brought before the ICTY. Until recently...

2. Council of Europe adopts Mr Marty’s Report

Swiss Senator Mr Dick Marty, the Head of the PACE Commission on Judicial Issues, was asked to conduct and present a report to the Council of Europe[1]. Albanians and Kosovo Albanians tried so far to keep the issue buried but now they are facing substantial evidence. The Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, dismissed the claims in Del Ponte’s book, calling it just fiction. On the same grounds, Ina Rama, Albania’s General Prosecutor, said at the time that the allegations were too vague to investigate. Up to now the EULEX –the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo did not bring any significant results. International investigations, by war crimes investigators from Serbia, the EU, and the Council of Europe, have failed to uncover any evidence that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was involved in organ trafficking. The failure to find either the original sources or any new evidence since 2004 may mean that the story was unfounded.

 

However, Mr Marty argues that the reason was that all these efforts were not well synchronised and the international investigators were not backed by the Albanian and Kosovo Albanian authorities. So far, only Serbia cooperated in finding the fate of the roughly 1,900 people (Serbs, Roma, and Ethnic Albanians) who remain missing from the Kosovo War, although without any significant results. It has been incredibly complicated to carry out excavations in Kosovo, and impossible on Albanian territory, because there was not sufficient cooperation among the international agencies, Kosovo Albanians, and Albanian authorities. But after the publication of Dick Marty’s report last December, the Legal Affairs Committee of the PACE has called for a series of national and international investigations into evidence of disappearances, organ trafficking, corruption, and collusion between organised criminal groups and political circles in Kosovo[2]. The Committee called on the EU and other contributing states, including Serbian, Albanian, and the Kosovo authorities, to provide EULEX with the necessary resources and political support. The Council of Europe adopted Marty’s report, without substantial changes[3], and approved a resolution calling on Albanian and Kosovo authorities to investigate organ-trafficking allegations (169 votes in favour, 8 against, and 14 abstentious)[4].

 

3. Strong allegations coming forward

According to the report, a result of a two-year investigation effort, Kosovo Albanian guerrillas under the KLA have allegedly committed grave human rights violations, detaining, beating, and abusing within Albanian territory both Serbs and Albanians that were helping them, during and after the Kosovo War. The Albanian authorities never helped and never cooperated with EULEX investigators. The justification they used for not helping in finding the fate of those people was that their territory had not been affected by the conflict. For example, after months of indifference on the matter, the Albanian government replied to a request for international legal assistance concerning the Kukës camp by saying that natural disaster caused the delays[5]. It is this particular Kukës case that proves how manifestly untrue is the claim that Albanian territory was not affected by the war. Dick Marty, in his report claims that he has substantial evidence that there was not just one facility in Albania at which this post-conflict form of secrete detention took place. There was a whole ad hoc network of such facilities, joined up by frequent journeys between them on Albania’s provincial roads, and across the porous, chaotic (especially at the time of the mass refugee movements in mid- 1999) border between Kosovo and Albania[6]. Namely the detentions were Cahan, Kukës filled with Albanian ‘traitors’, and Rripe aka ‘Yellow House’, or ‘K House’ where mostly Serbs were detained. The captives were supposed to have moved through these facilities (in the areas of Bicaj, Burrel, Rripe, and Fushë-Krujë) before transferred to clinics where on the light of recent findings they had their organs removed against their will. In particular, it was in the Fushë-Krujë facility that they ended up to be murdered.

 

4. Is Mr Thaci involved?

On top of this, the current leader of Kosovo, Mr Hashim Thaci is accused to have been involved. In his report, Mr Marty illustrates how the “Drenica Group” which was ruled by Mr Thaci, wrested control of most of the illicit criminal enterprises in which Kosovo Albanians were involved in Albania, beginning at the latest in 1998. According to purportedly well-substantiated intelligence reports, this Group built a formidable power in the organised criminal enterprises in Kosovo and Albania. Mr Marty goes as far as to note that at least five countries have named Mr Hashim Thaci and other members of the Group, as having exerted violent control over the heroin and other narcotics trade and various intelligence services identified him as the most dangerous of the KLA’s “criminal bosses”[7]. Mr Marty specifically points out, that first-hand sources alone have credibly implicated that Mr Thaci and other members of his inner circle, ordered -and in some cases personally overseen- assassinations, detentions, beatings, and interrogations in various parts of Kosovo and in the context of KLA-led operations on Albanian territory between 1998 and 2000. But there seem to be two principle impediments to the quest for justice as he suggests: A. the de facto reach of the investigations is carefully managed and restricted from the authorities, and Kosovo’s people collaboration with EULEX suffers from lack of confidence. B. these men would apparently rather accept justice in the courts for their alleged roles in the detention camps and the organ trafficking, than implicate their former senior KLA commanders, upon whose authority they acted and who are now senior political figures. Similarly, the structure of the Albanian society, where there is a clear absence of a true civil society, has made it extremely difficult to set up contacts with local sources for the research Marty was conducting for the report. This fear has accumulated “often to the point of genuine terror”[8]. Moreover, the Council of Europe alleges that the organ trafficking ring was set up by the current top advisor to Thaci, Shaip Muja who was chief medical officer in the KLA at the time. Kosovo Albanian leader Mr Thaci admitted that war crimes had been committed after the war , but said the culprits were “pretending they belonged to the KLA” by wearing its uniform[9].

 

Albanians protested against the report but the accusations this time are much more specific and the evidence that Mr Marty obtained -if eventually proven- is just too serious to be ignored. Pressure is growing on the Senator to back up his allegations. Some 6000 ethnic Albanians in Serbia have signed a petition to add up to the signatures collected from Albanians in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia, against the claims that Hashim Thaci was involved in organ trafficking, assassinations, and drugs. The signing of the petition was organised by former figures of the Liberation Army of Presevo, (a municipality in Serbia at the border with the Kosovo region), Medvedja and Bujanovac, which in late 2000 clashed briefly with Serbian security forces[10]. As expected, Kosovo’s leadership has denied the claims but were forced under the circumstances to agree that a probe should be launched. Ethnic Albanians accuse Marty that he is taking the Serbian side equalising the victims and the criminals. The organisers of the petitions in Albania, Serbia, Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia, and of course in Kosovo were convinced that collecting a large number of signatures would stop the PACE from adopting Marty’s report. However, this was proven to be a castle in the air and as it turned out the Council could not but just accept the report and pressure for further investigation. The petition would also be sent to the European Court of Human Rights[11].

 

5. There should not be double standards

In a war like this, crimes are committed from both sides. As Marty states “whenever a conflict has occurred, all criminals must be prosecuted and held responsible for illegal acts, whichever side they belonged to and irrespectively of the political role they took on”[12]. The fact that Albanians were the victims of the genocide performed by the Milosevic regime, by no means implies immunity, especially in such atrocious criminal acts which have nothing to do with their resistance to the Serbian forces. PM Sali Berisha after the pressure imposed by the report is also now welcoming EULEX to extend probes in Albanian territory, and promises cooperation[13]. At the same time, Ina Rama, Albanian General Prosecutor, makes a shift to her yearlong policy against the investigations also offering cooperation[14].

 

Obviously, this is a very difficult case that puts Western leaders in an awkward position since NATO cooperated closely with the KLA during the Kosovo War. In addition, the accusations targeting a high level official such as Thaci is not particularly making it any easier as Georgy Engelgardt, fellow at the Institute of Slavic Studies, observes[15]. Human Rights Watch calls years now for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to examine the case and an effective witness protection programme to be established. The organisation has insisted on a high-level political backing of the US and the EU[16] which we have not seen so far. It is a very positive step that the Council of Europe adopted Marty’s report, praising the Senator for his courage as well as his “excellent and difficult” work[17]. 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[18]. However, EULEX appears reluctant to initiate an investigation into Dick Marty’s allegations until they get specific evidence although they claimed they did right after the adoption of the report by PACE[19]. The Council urged EULEX to be involved in the investigations, and the Mission should definitely cooperate and should highly consider that there is no effective witness protection programme when asking Marty to provide the necessary evidence. After all, as the legal expert for the Balkans and professor at the University of Graz in Austria, Joseph Marko, put it “EULEX is not a court; therefore the collected material must be passed on to a court”[20]. However, three months after the adoption of the report by PACE EULEX refuses to cooperate repeating that no hard evidence is provided by Mr Marty[21].

 

6. Where is the West?

Obviously the probe reached a stalemate again and no one seems willing to cooperate. Serbia sent a proposal on the 19th[22]. Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, is backed by his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, who officially visited Belgrade just before the proposal was sent. Russia is there, where is the West? Too many are at stake... But all war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia have been investigated under a UN Security Council mandate, so there should not be double standards on this case. of April to the UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon asking for an independent investigation.

 

There is no question that Albanians and Kosovo Albanians may feel uncomfortable with these developments; but as it is essential to find the truth concerning the fate of missing Albanians, victims of the Milosevic ethnic cleansing policy, it is equally critical to examine if KLA committed the aforementioned crimes. Obstructing the path to justice only provokes further suspicion to whoever is following the case. It is extremely important Western states to pressure to this direction since any delayed response to these requests is incomprehensible and intolerable in view of the urgency to deal with such a serious crime issue. Concluding, fiction or facts, if there is any suspicion of such crimes, and there is indeed much more than suspicion, there is only one way to find out; coordinated and serious investigations.

 

 

References:

Birca Mircea, “Serbia Has Sent a Proposal for Kosovo Organ Trafficking Investigation to UN”, Eurasia Press & News, April 20, 2011, http://eurasia.ro/?p=40769

 

Collaku Petrit, “Probe Stalls Into Marty Report Claims on Kosovo”, Balkan Insight, April 28, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/no-persons-under-investigations-related-to-marty-s-report

 

“Council Adopts Dick Marty’s Kosovo Report”, Swiss Info.ch, January 25, 2011, http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Council_adopts_Dick_Martys_Kosovo_report.html?cid=29328740&rss=true

 

“Council of Europe Adopts Marty’s Report”, New Kosova Report, January 25, 2011 http://www.newkosovareport.com/201101252278/Politics/council-of-europe-debates-martys-report.html

 

“Council of Europe Endorses Kosovo Organs Report”, EU business, January 25, 2011, http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/kosovo-serbia.8al/

 

“EULEX Launches First Investigations”, New Kosova Report, January 26, 2011, http://www.newkosovareport.com/201101262284/Politics/eulex-will-not-launch-any-investigation.html

 

“Joseph Marco: Thaci Could be Accused”, New Kosova Report, January 27, 2011, http://www.newkosovareport.com/201101272287/Politics/joseph-marko-thaci-could-be-accused.html

 

“KLA Veterans Launch Petition Against Organ Trade Report”, Balkan Insight, January 10, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kla-veterans-launch-petition-against-organ-trade-report

 

“Kosovo/ Albania: Investigate Alleged KLA Crimes”, Human Rights Watch, UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, December 15, 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,ALB,,4d0b1878c,0.html

 

Lazic Nikola, “Thousands in South Serbia Sign Petition Against Organ Trade Report”, Balkan Insight, January 17, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/thousands-in-south-serbia-sign-petition-against-organ-trade-report

 

Likmeta Besar, “Albania PM Calls for Organ Harvesting Probe”, Balkan Insight, December 23, 2010, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-calls-for-organ-harvesting-probe

 

Likmeta Besar, “EULEX, Albania to Cooperate in Organ Trade Probe”, Balkan Insight, January 18, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/eulex-and-albania-joint-strategy-in-organ-trade-probe

 

Marty Dick, “Inhuman Treatment of People and Illicit Trafficking in Human Organs in Kosovo”, Report on Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, December 12, 2010 http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2010/20101218_ajdoc462010provamended.pdf

 

“PACE Committee Demands Investigations into Organ-Trafficking and Disappearances in Kosovo and Albania”, Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, December 16, 2010 http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsManagerView.asp?ID=6179&L=2

 

Solovyov, Vyacheslav, “PACE Winter Session Expected to be Emotional”, The Voice of Russia, January 24, 2011, http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/01/24/41008741.html

 

“Uncovering Albania’s Role in the Kosovo War”, BBC news, May 17, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8687186.stm

 

[1] Marty Dick, “Inhuman Treatment of People and Illicit Trafficking in Human Organs in Kosovo”, Report on Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, December 12, 2010 http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2010/20101218_ajdoc462010provamended.pdf

[2] “PACE Committee Demands Investigations into Organ-Trafficking and Disappearances in Kosovo and Albania”, Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, December 16, 2010 http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/NewsManager/EMB_NewsManagerView.asp?ID=6179&L=2

[3] “Council of Europe Adopts Marty’s Report”, New Kosova Report, January 25, 2011 http://www.newkosovareport.com/201101252278/Politics/council-of-europe-debates-martys-report.html

[4] “Council Adopts Dick Marty’s Kosovo Report”, Swiss Info.ch, January 25, 2011, http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Council_adopts_Dick_Martys_Kosovo_report.html?cid=29328740&rss=true

[5] Marty (2011), p. 9

[6] Ibid, p. 22

[7] These were the German BND, the Italian Sismi, the British MI6 and the Greek EYP intelligence services, see Ibid, p. 15

[8] Ibid, p.6

[9] “Uncovering Albania’s Role in the Kosovo War”, BBC news, May 17, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8687186.stm

[10] Lazic Nikola, “Thousands in South Serbia Sign Petition Against Organ Trade Report”, Balkan Insight, January 17, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/thousands-in-south-serbia-sign-petition-against-organ-trade-report

[11] “KLA Veterans Launch Petition Against Organ Trade Report”, Balkan Insight, January 10, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/kla-veterans-launch-petition-against-organ-trade-report

[12] Marty (2010), p. 2

[13] Likmeta Besar, “Albania PM Calls for Organ Harvesting Probe”, Balkan Insight, December 23, 2010, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-calls-for-organ-harvesting-probe

[14] Likmeta Besar, “EULEX, Albania to Cooperate in Organ Trade Probe”, Balkan Insight, January 18, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/eulex-and-albania-joint-strategy-in-organ-trade-probe

[15] Solovyov, Vyacheslav, “PACE Winter Session Expected to be Emotional”, The Voice of Russia, January 24, 2011, http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/01/24/41008741.html

[16] “Kosovo/ Albania: Investigate Alleged KLA Crimes”, Human Rights Watch, UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, December 15, 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,ALB,,4d0b1878c,0.html

[17] “Council Adopts Dick Marty’s Kosovo Report”, Ibid

[18] “Council of Europe Endorses Kosovo Organs Report”, EU business, January 25, 2011, http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/kosovo-serbia.8al/

[19] “EULEX Launches First Investigations”, New Kosova Report, January 26, 2011, http://www.newkosovareport.com/201101262284/Politics/eulex-will-not-launch-any-investigation.html

[20] “Joseph Marco: Thaci Could be Accused”, New Kosova Report, January 27, 2011, http://www.newkosovareport.com/201101272287/Politics/joseph-marko-thaci-could-be-accused.html

[21] Collaku Petrit, “Probe Stalls Into Marty Report Claims on Kosovo”, Balkan Insight, April 28, 2011, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/no-persons-under-investigations-related-to-marty-s-report

[22] Birca Mircea, “Serbia Has Sent a Proposal for Kosovo Organ Trafficking Investigation to UN”, Eurasia Press & News, April 20, 2011, http://eurasia.ro/?p=40769

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